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SIKHISM THIRD EDITION WORLD RELIGIONS by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh Series Editors: Joanne O’Brien and Martin Palmer .
some addresses and links may have changed since publication and may no longer be valid. or by any information storage or retrieval systems. Sikhism—Juvenile literature. — (World religions) Previously published: 2004. cm. associations. I. or sales promotions. p.S5175 2009 294. Uxbridge. All links and Web addresses were checked and verified to be correct at the time of publication. U. ISBN 978-1-60413-114-7 1. Third Edition Copyright © 2009. institutions. without permission in writing from the publisher.K.Sikhism. No part of this book may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means. —3rd ed. recording.chelseahouse. .com This book was produced for Chelsea House by Bender Richardson White. 2004.6—dc22 2008029662 Chelsea House books are available at special discounts when purchased in bulk quantities for businesses. You can find Chelsea House on the World Wide Web at http://www. For information contact: Chelsea House An imprint of Infobase Publishing 132 West 31st Street New York NY 10001 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Singh. including photocopying. Includes bibliographical references and index. Sikhism / by Nikky-Guninder Kaur Singh. Title. BL2018. Nikky-Guninder Kaur. Project Editor: Lionel Bender Text Editor: Ronne Randall Designer: Ben White Picture Researchers: Joanne O’Brien and Kim Richardson Maps and symbols: Stefan Chabluk Printed in the United States of America CP BRW 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 This book is printed on acid-free paper. 1993 by Infobase Publishing All rights reserved. Because of the dynamic nature of the Web. electronic or mechanical. Please call our Special Sales Department in New York at (212) 967-8800 or (800) 322-8755.
CHAPTER 1 CHAPTER 2 CHAPTER 3 CHAPTER 4 CHAPTER 5 CHAPTER 6 CHAPTER 7 CHAPTER 8 CHAPTER 9 CONTENTS Preface 6 Introduction: Sikhism and the Modern World 8 Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 20 Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 36 Sikh Thought 54 Sikh Ethics 66 Religious Life and Rites of Passage 74 Sacred Space and Altered Time 98 Women and Sikhism 118 Sikh Tradition and Modern Culture 126 Fact File and Bibliography 138 Further Reading and Web Sites 139 Glossary 140 Index 141 About the Author and Series Editors 144 Picture Credits 144 .
its central beliefs and important rituals. and its contributions to world civilization. Today more than half the world’s population practice a major religion or indigenous spiritual tradition. its origins and history. glossary. religion still shapes people’s lives and plays a key role in politics and culture. It is written and designed to appeal to both students and general readers. sets out to achieve this aim. bibliography.000 years ago. These books will help clarify what religion is all about and reveal both the similarities and differences in the great spiritual traditions practiced around the world today. fact file. accessible overviews of the major religious traditions and institutions of our time. Each volume in the series describes where a particular religion is practiced. a map. And in societies throughout the world increasing ethnic and cultural diversity has led to a variety of religions being practiced side by side. more than 10. This makes it vital that we understand as much as we can about the world’s religions. of which this book is a part. 6 SIKHISM Sikh Populations Majority Sikh population Large Sikh population Widespread Sikh population Small or no Sikh population . including the United States. religion has shaped human history. and sidebars.Preface Almost from the start of civilization. The World Religions series. In many 21st-century societies. The books offer clear. Carefully chosen photographs complement the text. and index are included to help readers gain a more complete understanding of the subject at hand.
© Infobase Publishing Preface 7 .
Scotland. About 8 million Sikhs are spread in other parts of India and beyond. and Hong Kong. as are many of its army troops and many of its Harimandir. Iran. the House of God. is the most sacred of all Sikh holy places. East Africa. many Sikhs moved across the border to live in the Indian area of the Punjab. What makes them dominant in society is their strong work ethic.CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION: SIKHISM AND THE MODERN WORLD he Sikh religion is one of the youngest of all world religions. the Arab Emirates. the United States. when the new state of Pakistan was created and the area of the Punjab was split between two countries. It is also known as the Golden Temple and rises above a reflecting pool. which is located in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in northwest India and east Pakistan. Malaysia.” built by Guru Ram Das in 1577. In all there are about 24 million Sikhs in the world today and around 16 million of them live in the Indian part of Punjab. they are highly visible. There are Sikh populations in England. It began about 500 years ago in the Punjab region of India. and their courageousness. At Partition in 1947. Work on the Harimandir itself was completed in 1601. 8 SIKHISM T . Pakistan. Although Sikhs represent only about 2 percent of India’s huge population. in Amritsar. the “pool of nectar. India. which is part of their religion. Canada. A large proportion of India’s military officers are Sikhs. Most of its followers still live in this fertile region.
Introduction: Sikhism and the Modern World 9 .
It transcends all space. Ikk oan kar sat nam.airline pilots. meaning “lion” or “lionhearted. meaning “princess.” Every Sikh woman’s second name is Kaur. mechanics. the Supreme Ultimate Reality through which the universe was created and continues to exist. Army to consider whether its Sikhs may be permitted to wear the turban with their uniforms. Britain had to pass special laws to exempt turbaned Sikhs from a law requiring them to wear motorcycle helmets. Sikhs may be found in cities and towns the world over. Sikhs in their far-flung communities joked that whoever reached the moon first would find a Sikh already there. Thus the Sikh ideal includes all religions. and cultural backgrounds. accountants and doctors. Because of this belief scholars usually consider Sikhism to be a monotheistic religion. Sikhs believe in the Divine One. WhaT IS SIkhISm? The fundamental principle of Sikhism is. races. Sikhs are also known to be fine athletes. and many have represented India on Olympic teams.S. time. It is fairly easy to recognize a traditional Sikh. “There is only One Being and Truth is its Name”—in Punjabi. and gender.” Both men and women wear a steel bracelet around the right wrist as an emblem of their faith. taxi drivers and shopkeepers. lawyers. Such a visible symbol has sometimes been a problem. Every Sikh man’s second name is Singh. and office workers. Sikh men can often be identified by their beards and by the turban. For Sikhs the Supreme Ultimate Reality cannot be seen or represented visually in a picture or a statue. 10 SIKHISM . where they have settled in search of work and education. They are especially significant in the world of business. a headdress that consists of a long length of colorful cloth wrapped around the head. In most metropolitan areas one can find Sikh professors. students. It takes in all other gods and beliefs. During the race between the United States and the former Soviet Union to put the first person on the moon in the 1950s and 1960s. In the United States a still-unresolved court case brought by a Sikh has led the U.
Other men of India may wear the turban. Introduction: Sikhism and the Modern World 11 . often a feature of Muslim dress. but it is particularly associated with Sikhs who wear it to cover uncut hair. or Sikh brotherhood. one of the symbols of belonging to the Khalsa.The turban is the most notable feature of Sikh men’s clothing.
ety and universal nature of the One. inspired. and sports events. or teacher. as well as those from other faiths. knowing that they will be welcomed as family. Wherever Sikhs live they are involved citizens. and other similar the Guru Granth. games. and they treat it with the highest respect. Universal. Fellowship. ThE orIgINS of SIkhISm Sikhs trace their religion to Guru Nanak. ikhs refer to the power over all not usuwho is believed to have been divinely ally as “God” but by its characteristics. Marriage and children are extremely important to Sikhs. They focus instead on living their faith. Hin12 SIKHISM . a leader whose title. the Divine. all of whom are revered as mate Reality. Sikhs consider other Sikhs to be their brothers and sisters. a significant number of Sikhs eat meat. the sacred volume that titles. guru. ThE NamE “TruE LIvINg” Sikhs reject ritual and external forms of religion. both of which they believe harm the mind. the first guru. Sikhs turn to this holy book for inspiration and guidance in ritual and worship. the Formless. The words of One. Nanak was followed by nine Therefore it may be referred to as the Ultiother gurus. the Ultimate.” The India into which Nanak was born was home to both Hinduism and Islam.” In India. They enjoy singing. Truth. Sikhs do not use tobacco products or any intoxicants. means “teacher. community. This variety signiﬁes the great variincludes the poems and songs of the gurus. Sikh travelers to other countries often consult telephone books for Sikh names and then call. It is at the center of all Sikh services and celebrations.” or “one who enlightens. including those from Islam. the great teachers and leaders.S Sikhism arises from the teachings of Guru Nanak. the Transcendent. the the gurus are preserved in Sikh scripture. working hard and playing hard and trying to live up to the ideals of their faith. a country of many vegetarians. Yet early Sikh gurus rejected the idea that self-denial is necessary to the high ideal of what they called “true living. and their holidays have a festival atmosphere. Inﬁnity. Infidelity is forbidden. and family life are at the center of Sikhism.
the timeless. but many Sikhs feel that at dawn and dusk they can more easily focus their minds on the Ultimate One. Sikhs everywhere consider themselves to be a family united through the grace of the Ultimate Reality. Sikhs reject all distinctions of social class. Finally they share the fruits of their labor with the disadvantaged outside the Sikh community. Men and women have an equal voice. Sikhs do not look down on any kind of work. giving both money and time to charity. Dignity of labor—Earning one’s living by honest work and working hard for one’s livelihood are good deeds that earn merit toward a better life now and in the future. They also serve the Sikh community by helping fellow Sikhs as brothers and sisters. or Sikh house of worship. and Islam had come to India from Saudi Arabia between the 11th and 13th centuries c. no one is excluded. duism had originated on the banks of India’s Indus River many centuries before. They take seriously the words of the scripture to “rejoice in My Name.e. both friends and strangers.ThE IDEaLS of SIkhISm Worship of the One Ultimate Reality—Sikhs worship what is to them the Ultimate Reality. They ﬁnd laziness or living oﬀ others unacceptable. Morning and evening prayers are oﬀered in the gurdwara. They freely extend hospitality and aid to other Sikhs. Introduction: Sikhism and the Modern World 13 . race. formless force that is above all things and present in all things. Everyone is welcome to participate in the life of the Sikh community.” People may pray anywhere at any time. Community—Fellowship is an act of faith. Service—Sikhs express their beliefs through service to the One by reading from the scriptures and helping with the upkeep of the gurdwara. They join together regularly for worship and for community meals and activities. and creed because they are artiﬁcial and because they separate people from the One Ultimate Reality. Equality of all people—All people are equal because the Divine is present in everyone.
14 SIKHISM .Following worship. The langar is free and is open to people of all beliefs and backgrounds. the Sikh community meal. members of a congregation join in preparing food in the gurdwara kitchens to serve at langar.
people were asking questions: What is the basis of religion? Has this basis been lost over time? Have ritual and ceremony taken the place of faith and devotion? Religious thinkers worried that religion had been reduced to a hollow shell of external form and practice. sailed around the continent of Africa. In both East and West. They point in particular to echoes of the work of Kabir (1440–1518). In 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain to search for a westward route to Asia and reached the shores of America. a time of revival and progress in art.ExPloRATion And REvivAl Nanak was born in 1469 c. This invention spread literacy to an ever wider audience. Both poet and religious reformer. too. and landed on the Arabian seacoast in the Malabar region of southern India. god As THE only REAliTy By 1500. Asia and Europe. the first book known to be printed in the Western world. and religious leaders were emerging who were reviving old traditions or developing new ones. and spirituality. imPulsE foR A nEw REligion The world of religion. Kabir drew together aspects of the Hindu Bhakti movement and Islamic Introduction: Sikhism and the Modern World 15 . both Hinduism and Islam had enriched Indian thought with their devotional literature. Six years later the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama left Lisbon. In Germany Martin Luther (1483–1546) challenged the teachings of the Christian Church and set in motion the wheels of the Reformation. art. marked the appearance of movable type. a movement that led to Protestantism. In 1466 the Gutenberg Bible. was changing. faults were becoming apparent. and the sciences. At the same time European explorers were voyaging to parts of the world that were unknown on their home continent. literature. when Nanak began teaching.e. Fundamentals in religion were being challenged. In India Luther’s contemporary Guru Nanak provided the impulse for a new and vital religious tradition. At the time Europe was experiencing the Renaissance. Many scholars find traces of both Hinduism and Islam in Sikhism.
the focus of Sikh ritual to grow unshorn. a steel “bracelet” to be worn on the right Sikh ceremonies relating to birth. kara. fitness. compiled a granth. The granth would be the only tity. The guruship was always based on merit. SIkhS aND mILITaNCy Early in their history the Sikhs were forced by religious persecution. to arm themselves for protection.” In it he collected the poems and songs of the earlier gurus and added his own to the colThE fIvE kS lection. Sikhism shares these elements and indeed it has similarities to Christianity. or “comb. kaccha. the most the 10th guru. These external signs of Sikh faith are known as the ve Ks and are now worn by all Sikhs. The Hindu Bhaktas stressed the belief that God is the only reality. both men and women. or “sword.” presence. However for the Sikhs Nanak was clearly the founder of a separate and distinct religious tradition. initiaarm as a symbol of strength and the unbrotion. ThE guru graNTh The leadership of Guru Nanak passed successively to nine other gurus. and Daoism as well. The other four symbols were kangha. decreed important was kesha. in 1708. Gobind Singh. Khalsa by Gobind Singh. and kirpan. O a pair of loose shorts worn as an undergarment. and death take place in its ken circle of Oneness. a “book” or “sacred volume. and worship has been the Guru Granth.” a symbol of self-defense and the ﬁght against injustice. and they rejected the rigid social structures and rituals of other forms of Hinduism.Sufism.” which was that from then on. or “drawers. the first of a line of gurus who underscored his special understanding. breaking with Hindu tradition that the eldest son should succeed his father. Arjan. The Muslim Sufis were mystics who believed in merging the individual self with the One Universal Being. Thus Sikhs allow their hair and beards guru. Buddhism. In 1604 the fifth guru. dedication. He also included the works of several Muslim and Hindu holy men such as f the ﬁve symbols prescribed for the Kabir. Since then. there would be no livto remain uncut to provide a distinct idening gurus. A little over 100 years later. In 1699 16 SIKHISM .” for neatness. each of whom became in turn a spiritual leader of the Sikhs. marriage. and capability. or “hair. and by the execution of two of their gurus by Muslim rulers.
” The members of the Khalsa swore to have faith in the One Reality. A period of relative calm followed. Sikh troops played an important and active role during the period of the British Empire. sikHs And THE BRiTisH EmPiRE The Sikh fighting forces have had a long and proud history of military discipline and courage in battle. He also announced the five symbols that would mark them as members of the Khalsa. Introduction: Sikhism and the Modern World 17 . In this photograph they are in South Africa as part of the British forces fighting in the Boer War (1889–1902). They remained undefeated until the mid-1800s. to consider all human beings equal. when India came under the rule of the British Empire. Gobind Singh gave the first five members of the Khalsa the second name Singh to signify their equality. and to help the poor and defend the faith.Guru Gobind Singh organized an elite fighting force. regardless of their religion or social level. the Khalsa or “Pure Ones. thus distinguishing them from non-Sikhs. during which the Sikhs lived peacefully in the Punjab. Under British rule many Sikhs acquired land and the area prospered. These are known as the five Ks.
Members of the panth or community are also working for improved economic conditions. The Indian Army attacked them there. The new century presents challenges both old and new for the community. In 1925 matters improved slightly when the government gave Sikhs a voice in the management of their own shrines. And nEw CHAllEngEs After World War II the British left India. however. one of the Sikh holy places. and freedom. TEnsion. In 1984 a large band of Sikh separatists took refuge in the Golden Temple. and as part of the general decolonization agreement a new country. Sikhs are still seeking justice. killing hundreds. The discontent that resulted eventually led to a movement for a separate Sikh state. PARTiTion. and education. A period of uneasy peace followed until World War II (1939–45). More than 2. In resisting oppression and fighting for tolerance Sikhs are being true to the teachings of God and of their gurus—all humans possess the Divine spark. infrastructure. Pakistan. After the war. 18 SIKHISM . When the Sikhs refused to obey the British fired on them. when the Sikhs again fought alongside the British.Sikhs fought as part of the British Army in World War I (1914–18) and achieved distinction. again with honor. They were forced to leave their homes and move over the border to less desirable land in India. killing several thousand Sikhs and seriously damaging the temple compound.5 million Sikhs found themselves in a Muslim country that did not want them. disputes about control of Sikh holy places caused unrest. In 1919 the British denied Sikhs permission to gather for a New Year festival. equality. was carved out which absorbed most of the Punjab. By the early 1980s tensions between the Indian government and the Sikh separatists had worsened to the point of violence. Tensions eased in the 1990s due to significant political and economic changes affecting Sikhs and all Indians. especially as these values relate to rectifying the abuses of the Indian central government. The violation of the Golden Temple remains a painful memory for many Sikhs.
culture. and belief is an important one for the modern world. The Hindu ideal of shanti. sahaj creates an inner peace and points the way to union with the transcendent reality. is central to Guru Nanak’s view of the world. For those who cultivate it. the Jewish ideal of shalom. Introduction: Sikhism and the Modern World 19 . The search for sahaj is part of the quest for peace and the Ultimate. and the Islamic ideal of salaam are all included in the Sikh yearning for sahaj.Sahaj—TRAnquilliTy Despite the image of militancy that has followed them the Sikhs’ message is one of universal love and peace. the One of Sikhism. At the same time it creates an outer good will and leads the individual along paths of peaceful interaction with others. Sikhs today continue to believe in the Universal Oneness of all Reality and in the equality of all people. Their message of human fellowship amid diversity of race. The concept of sahaj. or tranquillity.
A caste is a social group whose members’ rank in society is determined by birth. Praying in a Sikh temple or gurdwara in Ahmedabad. 1469. political. the Divine One of the universe. Every gurdwara has a copy of the Guru Granth. a rigid system of social. At the time of Nanak’s birth India was ruled by the Muslims. Indian society was organized according to the caste system. His vision became the way of life for the Sikhs. in the shrine room. The castes in India ranged from the Brahmins. Nanak showed people a new way of understanding the Ultimate Reality. Nanak’s family. however. These scriptures are considered the 11th and final guru. India. in Talwandi.CHAPTER 2 GURU NANAK AND THE ORIGINS OF THE SIKH FAITH N anak was the first guru of the Sikh religion. was Hindu. the Sikh holy scriptures. down to a group whose rank in society was so low that its people were known as untouchables (they prefer to call themselves Dalit). 20 SIKHISM . and economic order. Nanak was born on November 29. who were priests and scholars. a small Indian village in what is now Pakistan.
Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 21 .
or stories. A PRomising sTudEnT When Nanak was seven years old his father took him first to the Hindu priest of the village to begin his education and then to a school run by a Hindu teacher. His father was an accountant for the local Muslim landlord. These narratives. The Janamsakhi stories record that both Hindus and Muslims were impressed with the boy. THE BiRTH sToRy In the 16th century. He was named after his older sister. By Nanak’s lifetime the tradition of keeping written records was well established in Europe and Asia. are the first works of prose in Punjabi. which means “birth. Yet even as a child Nanak was spreading peace and goodwill. or prophet: Both Hindus and Muslims will venerate him. Nanaki. from the Punjabi words janam. He will hold all men equal as God’s creation. or warrior caste. —the Janamsakhi His early life was marked by the conflicts between Muslims and Hindus. The ocean will give him way: so will the earth and the sky. the language of the Punjab.NaNak’S BIrTh aND EarLy LIfE Nanak was born into one of the higher castes—the Khatri.” and sakhi. For a while Nanak also attended 22 SIKHISM . janamSakhi. not long after Nanak’s passing. Nanak’s mother was known as a pious and gentle woman. Nanak.” The writers came from different traditions and social groups. but they all believed that Nanak’s life was unique. which means “story. and they are called Janamsakhi. would be a great seer. His name will become known on earth and in heaven. his followers wrote short narratives about his birth and life. The family priest (harbalish) had predicted that the newborn child. Thus there are many contemporary accounts of Nanak’s life and teachings from people who actually saw and heard him. He will worship only one Formless God and teach others to do so.
Guru Nanak. his beloved disciples who accompanied him on his travels. Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 23 . the first of 11 Sikh gurus. with Mardana the musician and Bhai Bala the poet.
Thus will you make a sacred thread for the soul. Spin it into yarn of contentment Give it knots of continence And the twists of truth. —the Puratan Janamsakhis 24 SIKHISM nAnAk’s ExTRAoRdinARy lifE According to the Janamsakhi stories. If such a one you have. He is the image of God Himself. When the priest called on him he refused. Soon teachers from boy. Nanak. Nanak was inclined toward the life of the spirit.” a cord that symbolizes rebirth and distinguishes them from the Untouchables. Someone from a high caste is believed to be twice-born—that is. The boy proved to be an uncommonly bright. If a Hindu saw him he or she would both Hindu and Muslim traditions came exclaim: “Great is our Lord. he Janamsakhi stories record that enthusiastic. was required at an early age to participate in an initiation ritual in which he would put on the sacred thread. to increasingly higher levels of Master! How good looking is the child and existence.T a school kept by a Muslim teacher. because even at that very early age Nanak was opposed to ritual and to the caste system that limited the freedom of people in his society. Someone from a low caste may how polite is his speech. Talking to him hope that his or her actions in the present brings one such satisfaction. his answer to the priest has become a famous Sikh hymn: Let compassion be your cotton. Vishnu! Here to realize that there was nothing further is such a small child and yet he speaks so they could teach him. Let Compassion Be Your Cotton a NoBLE ChILD When young Nanak refused a request to wear the sacred thread. Hindu males from the upper castes wear a “sacred thread. or earthly And if a Muslim saw him he or she would say: “Wonderful is your creation. He is a noble will allow rebirth to a higher caste in his one blessed by the Almighty Allah. Put it on me. In a time when many Hindus and Muslims were focusing on external ceremony and ritual. His both Hindus and Muslims were teachers were surprised at his ability to impressed with Nanak even as a young grasp difficult ideas. like all Hindu boys. . Each caste has different quality thread to signify the caste. to have gone through a cycle of birth and death. and promising student. The person will carry out religious duties to be rewarded in this way.” gion is a belief in reincarnation.” or her next life. His words are as holy as he is handOne of the features of the Hindu relisome. Merciful rebirth. nobly.
leaving the sleeping Nanak exposed to of the ruined crop. A Miracle from God He left his tutors and turned his attention A Janamsakhi story says that one to contemplating the Divine. NaNak’S DIvINE CaLLINg When he was a young man Nanak moved to the city of Sultanpur to live with his sister Nanaki and her husband. The sun slowly rose to its highThe farmer had seen with his own est point and the shade of the tree retreateyes the chomping cattle in the midst ed. They also incorporate verses from his poems and songs. The simple narratives illustrate his religious and ethical teachings. and marveling at what he had seen. Soon the village a neighbor’s wheat field and quickly of Talwandi was abuzz with accounts of devoured the crop. was gone. carried the news back to the townspeople. It spread its hood to shade Nanak’s face from the burning sun. These stories and others from the Janamsakhi portray the extraordinary dimension of Nanak’s life. In many Sikh households parents and grandparents read these stories to young children at bedtime. Now he saw his the direct rays of the scorching midday crop perfectly restored. one of admitted that a miracle of God had taken place. Sikhs both young and old read and retell the Janamsakhi stories. India’s deadliest snakes. He been done. slid from a nearby hole. A town official observed the event. In the city he Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 25 . Nanak’s father saw only a teenager who in the beauty of nature and deep would not attend school. He humbly sun. He angrily complained to work miracles when a field of wheat that the village chief and soon a delegation came to assess the damage. The cattle he was to make himself useful. The farmer was Nanak the herder having the power to enraged. Wanting the boy in meditation.Nanak lost interest in formal education.” fell asleep. where others perceived the spark of divinNanak sat on the ground. To their had been eaten by cattle had miraculously amazement not a blade of wheat grown again that same day. While Nanak slept a cobra. However day while he was grazing the cattle. rapt ity. it must be elsewhere. he sent Nanak to supposed to be watching strayed into the fields to graze cattle. and “the field seemed to On another occasion Nanak lay down proclaim that if any damage had one summer day to rest under a tree.
and his companion Mardana holds a mandolin. Guru Nanak is sitting in the center. King Shivanath is listening to Guru Nanak’s spiritual teachings with his hands together in a gesture of devotion. 26 SIKHISM .A 16th-century painting of Guru Nanak with his disciple Mardana and King Shivanath of Jaffna. Sri Lanka. holding prayer-beads. This painting depicts one of the many extensive journeys that Guru Nanak made to teach and to spread his message of reaching the Divine.
He heard the divine words. Yet Nanak’s generosity did not deplete the store’s supplies. Drink it . or for that matter. Whoever remembers you will have my favor. in My Name. I am with you and I do bless and exalt you. above all things. He explained that during his absence he had been in direct communion with the Ultimate Reality. His clothes were found on the riverbank but there was no sign of the young man anywhere. and he drank from it. the cup of nectar appeared before him. NaNak’S vISIoN T he Janamsakhi recounts Nanak’s vision of the Divine after he had been missing for three days: As the Almighty willed. Then a cup filled with amrita (nectar) was given him with the command. NaNak’S mESSagE When Nanak first emerged from the river he pronounced the words that would form the foundation of Sikhism: “There is no Hindu. Jew.” Thus. Let this be your calling. rejoice. The statement does not deny the variety and richness of religious beliefs. Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 27 . . as was his custom. Go. He did not actually see the Ultimate Reality in any concrete form. When he did not return. Nanak rejected all religious and sectarian distinctions among human beings.” Nanak offered his salutations and stood up. His encounter with the Divine had showed him that all religions taught one true message—that of devotion to the One Reality. Christian. there is no Muslim. I have bestowed upon you the gift of My Name. This account portrays Nanak’s revelation as unique but one that his followers can also experience for themselves. and teach others to do so . this is the cup of Name-Adoration. Thus began the Sikh religion. Rather it embraces them all and celebrates the shared basis of all humanity. . Nanak was beloved by all and the entire city was plunged into gloom.worked in a store owned by the local Muslim landlord. “Nanak. On the third day Nanak returned. Nanak went to bathe in the River Bein. it was found that nothing was missing. or Buddhist. Nanak experienced the Ultimate Reality as without form and transcendent. Everyone believed that he had drowned in the river. Nanak the devotee was ushered into the Divine Presence. . in one sentence. and to the landlord’s dismay he often gave away goods without charging for them. . When Nanak was called to account for his actions. his family and friends began to search for him. the Divine One. The vision of the Infinite One enabled Nanak to recognize the unity of society beyond narrow categories such as Hindu and Muslim. One morning.
Muslims. He was then in his twenties. and levels of society. the holy city of Islam. the word in the Sanskrit language for “disciples. because to him it did not matter whether they were Hindu or Muslim. He did not ask others to renounce their religious faith. and the father of two sons. direct manner and his liberal. There he founded a village called Kartarpur. Wherever Nanak went he taught an inner way of reaching the Divine. Guru Arjan. and Buddhists and discussed with them their respective scriptures and philosophies. The community was a fellowship of men and women engaged in the ordinary occupations of life but devoted to the teachings of Nanak. Nanak spent his twilight years working as a farmer in the fields. To this day people in Tibet worship Guru Nanak by a different name and many Muslims and Hindus recognize Nanak’s divine powers. records that Nanak visited the Hindus. Wherever he went people began to follow him. and a highly esteemed Sikh historian and poet. an uncle of the fifth guru. universal message.TRAvEl And TEACHing Nanak set out to teach this message of the One Reality and the one fellowship of humanity. Sri Chand and Lakhmi Chand. 28 SIKHISM .” and eventually came to be called Sikhs. So from its earliest beginnings Sikhism was both a religion and a way of life. won over by his simple. The call to spread the Divine Word was strong in him and for the next 25 years his travels took him not only throughout India but also to such faraway places as Iraq and Saudi Arabia and even to Mecca. These followers came to be known as sishyas. but its members did not take vows or live as monks and nuns. At the end of his travels Nanak settled on the right bank of the River Ravi in the Punjab. He exhorted people to discard external rituals and ceremonies. Sikhs have always emphasized that everyone must work for their living—even gurus. The important thing was that they believed in the One Reality and were kind to all. A community of disciples grew around him there. cultures. married to a woman named Sulakhani. Bhai Gurdas. A CommuniTy of disCiPlEs Nanak’s Sishyas Nanak’s teaching drew people from different religions. extending to all phases of human conduct.
while Nanak composed and sang songs full of love for the Divine One. a Muslim family servant and musician. Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 29 . Mardana put Nanak’s songs to music and the two organized community singing. who played the rebec. a three-stringed musical instrument.Nanak was accompanied on his journeys by Mardana.
According to charity homes. overcome ego. Seva is the highest ideal in Sikh ethics. soldiers saw him giving water to fallen Young and old. and foe but only the guru’s face. fellowship.ThE ELEmENTS of SIkhISm At Kartarpur Nanak established three important elements of Sikh religious and social discipline: seva. hospitals. These elements have been strong factors in encouraging the Sikh values of equality. each takes enemies and reported him to the guru. Nanak taught that “by practicing deeds of humble and devoted service alone does one earn a seat in the next world. ne Sikh account tells the story of a sweeping and dusting the shrines. rich and poor. Over the centuries seva has become oN ThE BaTTLEfIELD an essential part of Sikh life. O lanGar Langar is both the community meal and the kitchen in which it is prepared. Ghanaya was called in and questioned. langar. Sikhs point to these actions as an example of nonpartisan humanitarian aid to the victims of war that predates the Red Cross and the Red Crescent by centuries. the wounded. It may take the form of attending to the holy book. It is extended to all. on and performs different tasks. It goes beyond serving felthis account the guru gave him medicines low Sikhs. Through seva Sikh believers cultivate humility. preparSikh soldier named Ghanaya in the ing and serving food. It testifies to the 30 SIKHISM . friend and and bandages and sent him back to help enemy alike. Seva is an essential condition of spiritual discipline.” Serving others with a cheerful attitude is deeply cherished. It is the performance of a deed of love and selfless service that contributes the work of one’s hands to serving fellow human beings both within and outside the Sikh community. and humility and in affirming a sense of “familyhood. or looking after and army of Guru Gobind Singh. His fellow even cleaning the shoes of worshippers. and purify their bodies and minds. Seva also He responded that as he moved about the includes serving the community at large battleﬁeld he had seen neither friend nor by helping to build schools. Langar is a central part of Sikhism. and sangat.” SeVa Seva is voluntary manual labor in the service of the community.
The food used at langar is vegetarian so as not to cause offense to anyone. Then they sit in a pangat. after a worship service. 31 Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith . or long row. race. kneading and rolling out dough. This fundamental Sikh institution involves the process of preparing meals together as well as eating together. without regard to caste. or religion. cleaning utensils. at the meal people sit together in long rows rather than at separate tables. and all begin eating at the same time. the Sikh community meal. and they eat the meal that they have prepared together. To show equality.social equality and familyhood of all people. People prepare and fry flat bread for a langar. Both men and women engage in preparation and cleanup—chopping vegetables.
CommuniTy And EquAliTy A Sikh bows in prayer on the marble floor in the precincts of the Harimandir. and class. The third guru. caste.” he decreed. Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs visit the Golden Temple annually and a langar is open to all visitors and pilgrims. The langar as an instrument of social change continued to gain importance under the leadership of the successive gurus. gender. Through them Guru Nanak’s followers formed a tightly knit community that has evolved into a distinct Sikh identity. In Nanak’s time the idea of different castes eating together was bold and revolutionary. was known for the rich and delicious meals she served. “First pangat. It extends the concept of the family meal as a step toward bonding human beings regardless of race. Amar Das. like the Jewish seder or the other traditional meals. Mata Khivi. Yet Nanak understood the importance of a shared meal in creating a feeling of belonging and fellowship. langar creates a feeling of family. the Golden Temple in Amritsar. In Guru Angad’s day his wife. The three institutions fostered by Guru Nanak—seva. then meeting with the guru. all of which are shared by people who are close or part of a community. insisted that visitors first enjoy langar with the community before meeting with him. Like the Thanksgiving feast or the Christmas dinner. langar. 32 SIKHISM . and sangat—have remained important social and religious structures for the Sikhs.
such as the birthday of a guru. langar is everywhere. . The tradition of an active and fruitful involvement with the community comes from Nanak himself. the celebration of an important historical event. listening to readings from Sangat is a mode of both spiritual the holy text. two form a holy association. and they enthusiastically serve langar to the drivers and passengers. transform into brilliant light in with the community gathering for evecompany of the good. one time of Nanak. the slow-going bullock carts.” Participation ning hymns and morning prayers: “In the with others becomes a force for inspiring the spiritual quest. SanGat Sangat is the Sikh gathering. Just as iron rubbed against Bhai Gurdas notes that wherever Nanak the philosopher’s stone turns went sangat soon emerged.Some Sikhs consider langar to be a way of earning merit toward rebirth and their next life. so does dark ignorance describes the daily schedule at Kartarpur. evening arti and sohila were sung and in the morning was recited the Jap (a hymn). or the martyrdom of a Sikh hero. During certain celebrations. and Sikhs see community participation as an essential part of their faith. sangat is open to all. and the fellowship of the sangat is of primary importance in their religious practice. cars. not only in the gurdwaras but beyond. rickshaws. even on the highways and byways. Sikhs of all ages arrange themselves in rows to block the road or they lay tree trunks across it to stop the flow of traffic. The historian Nam. there is the Ultimate Reality Itself. . According to a popular Sikh saying. and trucks.” Like langar. According to The inclusive nature of sangat dates to the Nanak: “Through sangat. or local community. and moral inspiration. “One disciple is a single Sikh. In modern times the custom is still very much in evidence in India. and pedestrians. . who welcomed everyone obtains the treasure of the Divine who wished to follow him. They stop the speeding buses. but where there are five present. reciting verses. and praying. Members of Sikh congregations sit on the floor Treasure of the Divine Name singing hymns.” Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 33 . Sikhs prize comradeship and company with others. Bhai Gurdas into gold.
” Nanak placed five copper coins and a coconut before Lehna and bowed down at his feet. He had transferred his own inner light to Lehna. the guru in Sikhism does not represent the Ultimate Reality in any way. Thus Lehna became Guru Angad. Sikhs believe that by naming him Angad. to him and gave him the name Angad. The 10 Gurus of Sikhism (1469–1539) Guru Nanak (1504–52 became guru 1539) Guru Angad (1479–74 became guru 1552) Guru Amar Das (1534–81 became guru 1574) Guru Ram Das (1563–1606 became guru 1581) Guru Arjan (1595–1644 became guru 1606) Guru Hargobind (1630–61 became guru 1644) Guru Har Rai (1656–64 became guru 1661) Guru Har Krishan (1621–75 became guru 1664) Guru Tegh Bahadur (1666–1708 became guru 1675) Guru Gobind Singh 34 SIKHISM . The same light is reﬂected in ten diﬀerent bodies. a guide who enlightens people and enables them to understand the love and nature of the Divine Reality. The guru is a channel. in 1675. He called one of his faithful disciples. The Sikh scripture describes the transference as being like one flame kindling another. which literally means “a part of his own self. the second guru in Sikh history and the new leader of the Sikh community. making Lehna one with him in spirit.ThE TraDITIoN of ThE guruS At the end of his life Nanak established yet another tradition of far-reaching importance for the Sikhs. Lehna. The guru is not divine nor is he a Christlike ﬁgure. The light and the message had passed from Nanak to Angad. ThE 10 guruS of SIkhISm T he 10 gurus of the Sikh tradition are unique in the history of religion. However. This transference. Nanak had made Lehna more than his successor. and the same voice speaks through all 10. was repeated successively through the installation of the 10th guru. begun by Nanak. Gobind Singh.
According to their customs the Hindus wanted to cremate Nanak’s body. According to the story the sheet and the flowers were divided between the Muslims and the Hindus to be disposed of according to the beliefs of each group. leaving behind the message of universal harmony for generations to come. Guru Nanak and the Origins of the Sikh Faith 35 . the holy book of the Sikhs. From that time on the light and voice of the Ultimate Reality have been transmitted by the scriptures. guRu nAnAk’s dEATH Nanak died on September 7. to bury it. The body of Nanak had vanished. ended the line of personal gurus by passing the succession not to another person but to the Guru Granth. nothing was there but flowers. However when the sheet was pulled away. the Muslims. each group wanting to perform the last rites.THE ElEvEnTH And finAl guRu The 10th guru. 1539. Gobind Singh. Thus the message and the mission begun by Guru Nanak continued through nine more gurus and reached culmination in the Guru Granth. The Janamsakhi story records that after Nanak’s death his sheet-covered body was claimed by both Hindus and Muslims.
Gurmukhi means “from the guru’s mouth.” and guru signifies that this particular granth has been designated the “guru. he sang and recited many more verses. The sacred songs of Nanak were the beginning of Sikh scripture. Throughout his ministry. the holy book of the Sikhs. and his sympathy for fellow beings in bondage and oppression. Wherever it rests. It is the longest book of rhymed poetry in the world.430 pages long and is written entirely in verse. The Guru Granth is the focal point of all Sikh rituals and ceremonies. a script devised specifically for the purpose of recording the gurus’ words. during a wedding service in the gurdwara.” or giver of enlightenment for all Sikhs. his awe at the grandeur and vastness of creation. The word granth simply means “book. the Sikh holy book.” 36 SIKHISM . Sikhs believe that Nanak’s poetry was not consciously created but A Sikh man reads from the Guru Granth. is 1. T ThE ComPILINg of ThE guru graNTh After Nanak’s divine revelation at the River Bein he sang a song of joy.CHAPTER 3 SIKH TRADITION AND THE GURU GRANTH he Guru Granth. Nanak’s poems express a range of experience from great joy to deep grief. The Granth is written in Gurmukhi. inspired by the Divine One. that space becomes holy. They tell of his longing to be united with the Infinite Divine One.
Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 37 .
gurmukhI SCrIPT W hen Angad inherited the guruship from Nanak and became the second guru. They needed a common message for their spiritual and moral life. sprang spontaneously from his lips. PAssing on THE TRAdiTion As the guruship passed successively from one guru to the next. During a famine in the Punjab Guru Arjan had traveled widely from village to village. so did each guru’s words. to you my flesh. The third guru. definite form to Sikh beliefs. Each guru valued and preserved the literary inheritance from those before him and thus each passed the body of poetry to the next after adding his own poetry. not only added his own poetic compositions and songs but also included those of some of the Hindu and Muslim saints. Building A Common mEssAgE By 1603 Sikhism was no longer contained in one small area. Gurmukhi script. “you the True One are my Beloved.” says the poet Nanak. “It is ambrosia (heavenly nectar). it emerges from deep knowledge and intense concentration.” Angad wrote. recorded in written form. Angad. To record the sacred word Angad developed a written form of the Punjabi language. helping to sink wells and performing other kinds of public service. who continued to speak through all of them. he continued the tradition of sacred poetry. The Adi Granth (which means “First Book”) was supposed to record the 38 SIKHISM . He added his own poetry to that of Nanak and signed it with his pseudonym—Nanak. Amar Das. which he felt was important for the beauty it brought to human life as well as for the knowledge it transmitted. It had spread geographically and grown in its numbers. The Janamsakhi records that before his death Nanak passed his Word. In that way each affirmed his unity with Nanak. All believed his words to be divinely inspired: “To you belong my breath. or teacher. And then there was the problem of counterfeit works. a text that would give a single. As a result many people had joined the Sikh panth. Each guru signed his composition with the name Nanak. As he spoke his followers copied down the holy words. to his successor. it is the essence of all. The two volumes he collected survive to this day.” The Sikh historian Bhai Gurdas says that Nanak carried a manuscript of his poems with him. of Sikhism.
the fourth guru. Arjan feared that the words of his predecessors would become diluted.218 hymns (1664–75) Guru Tegh Bahadur: 59 hymns and 56 couplets (added by Guru Gobind Singh (1675–1708) Hindu Bhaktas Kabir: 292 hymns and 243 couplets Farid: 4 hymns and 130 couplets Namdev: 60 hymns Ravidas: 41 hymns Jaidev: 2 hymns Beni: 3 hymns Trilochan: 4 hymns Parmananda: 1 hymn Sadhana: 1 hymn Ramananda: 1 hymn Islamic Suﬁs Dhanna: 4 hymns Pipa: 1 hymn Sain: 1 hymn Bhikhan: 2 hymns Sur Das: 2 hymns Sundar: 1 hymn Mardana: 3 couplets Satta and Balvand: 1 hymn Bhatts: 123 swaiyyas (quatrains) Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 39 . Arjan. Arjan’s eldest brother. CollATing THE Hymns Arjan. Ram Das. and Pirthi’s son Meharban were composing sacred poetry and signing it with the name Nanak. However Pirthi Chand. but the succession was not completely free of problems. the fifth guru.words of Nanak and the gurus who had directly succeeded him. to the guruship. He began to draw the Sikh literary legacy into an authorized volume for coming generations. undertook the job of compiling an authorized version of the holy Adi Granth. The task was a difficult one. had bypassed his older sons and appointed his younger son. Arjan called on the historian Bhai CoNTrIBuTorS To ThE guru graNTh The Sikh Gurus (1469–1539) Guru Nanak: 974 hymns (1439–1552) Guru Angad: 62 couplets (1552–74) Guru Amar Das: 907 hymns (1574–81) Guru Ram Das: 638 hymns (1581–1606) Guru Arjan: 2.
A granthi reading the Guru Granth Sahib in a gurdwara in Amritsar.
Gurdas for help. They chose a serene and picturesque spot in a forest outside the town of Amritsar in which to work. Today this site is marked by a shrine called Ramsar. By now a vast amount of poetry had been handed down. Arjan himself had composed thousands of hymns. Selections had to be made from his poems as well as from the works of the preceding four gurus. In addition Arjan wanted to represent Hindu and Muslim saints whose works were in harmony with Sikh belief. Finally what was genuine had to be sifted from what was not. As they worked Bhai Gurdas copied the chosen pieces in Gurmukhi script, a script devised specifically for the purpose of recording the gurus’ words. Gurmukhi means “from the guru’s mouth.”
oRgAniZing THE PoEms
Yearning for the Divine Arjan arranged the selected compositions according to their musical patterns. Except The first of the seven ragas, or for a few poems that he left to stand alone, melody patterns, is Sri, which means Arjan organized the collection into 31 sec“supreme.” It is a basic melody tions. Each section contains poems written pattern from which others are derived. The Sikhs compare Sri to the in one raga, or melody pattern—a form in philosopher’s stone, an imaginary Hindu music having the melodic rhythm substance that ancient people prescribed by tradition. The seven ragas believed could transform base metals appear in a particular order. Each raga has such as iron into gold. Sri is sung in its own distinctive intervals, rhythms, and the evening, the time of advancing timing, and each is associated with a pardarkness. In content too it expresses ticular season of the year. the darkness of ignorance and Within each of the 31 sections of the superstition in society before Nanak’s Adi Granth Arjan arranged the composiministry. Sri is also associated with extreme heat and cold or extremes tions in a particular order. First came the of emotion. The hymns in the Sri works of the earlier gurus in the order of pattern express a great yearning their succession. Since all of the gurus had for the Divine. signed their poems Nanak, Arjan distinguished them by using the word Mahalla, which means “body,” and a number. Thus poems headed Mahalla 1 were the work of the first guru, those headed Mahalla 2 were the work of the second guru, and so on. This designation symbolized the belief that each guru shared the spirit of Nanak in his body. After the gurus’ poems Arjan placed the works of a number of Hindu saints and one Muslim, Sheikh Farid, as well as others born before Guru Nanak such as Bhai Kabir who, as a poet and religious reformer, drew together aspects of the Hindu Bhakti movement and Islamic Sufism.
A sACREd TExT in A sACREd PlACE
The completion of the Adi Granth was an occasion for great celebration. On August 16, 1604, Sikhs traveled far to witness the colorful procession that would bear the sacred volume to Harimandir, the temple at Amritsar. Harimandir, a special place for Sikh worship, was the inspiration of Amar Das, the third guru.
Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth
Looking across the reflecting pool to the Harimandir, the Golden Temple at Amritsar. Work on Harimandir had begun under Ram Das, the fourth guru, in 1577. A structure of great architectural beauty that drew on both Hindu and Muslim design, the temple had been completed in 1601, only three years before the completion of the Guru Granth. Harimandir came to be known as the Golden Temple after the Sikh maharaja Ranjit Singh had it reconstructed and plated with gold.
The holy book not only became a spiritual and religious guide. ThE rISE of SIkh mILITarISm The Punjab at this time was ruled by the Muslim Mughal dynasty.” Bhai Buddha was both and was often consulted on very important matters. or Divine Command. fourth. Musicians played hymns from its pages.The Adi Granth was carried on the head of an elderly and much respected Sikh follower. while Arjan stood in attendance. and dust. although a Muslim. known as a granthi. Bhai Buddha. However his son JahanSikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 43 . During the lifetime of the third. He was a friend of Guru Arjan and spoke of the Adi Granth with great praise. The Golden Temple at Amritsar provided a central place for gathering and worship. Thus during Arjan’s time the Sikhs acquired both a sacred space in which to worship and a sacred text to guide them. Both helped to mold the Sikhs’ consciousness of themselves and their faith. often engaged in discussion with leaders of different religions. and fifth gurus the Mughal emperor was the remarkable Akbar (1556–1605). The Guru Granth gave the Sikh message concrete form. Observers likened the atmosphere to that of a joyous wedding. For example the decision to appoint Guru Arjan to become the fifth guru was based on his advice. the title of the book changed to the Guru Granth Sahib. At dusk the Adi Granth was taken to a special chamber and placed on a pedestal. Guru Gobind Singh. When the last human guru. Once inside Bhai Buddha reverently opened the Adi Granth to obtain the hukm. Arjan remained with it. but it also shaped the intellectual and cultural environment. sleeping on the floor by its side to show the esteem in which he held it. made the Adi Granth the final guru. He showed great interest in all religions and. though it is also still called the Adi Granth. despite the fact that some of his Muslim advisers claimed it insulted Muslim teachings. who was the first priest. Arjan walked behind him holding a whisk over the holy book to shade and protect it from flies. other insects. The name Buddha had come to mean “very wise and old.
and killed. whom the Muslim rulers were forcing to convert to Islam. Throughout the trials he faced Guru Arjan spoke words of peace and conciliation. was for prayer alone. For his stand on religious freedom Tegh Bahadur was imprisoned and beheaded in 1675 under the order of the Muslim emperor. swoRds of piri And miri Arjan’s son. the Golden Temple. was only nine years old at the time. Gobind Singh. Hargobind raised an armed band of Sikhs and let it be known that future disciples were to come bearing gifts of horses and weapons. 44 SIKHISM . With that action a new era began. or “Throne of the Formless One. On the day that he was to be invested Hargobind appeared dressed as a warrior. Together the swords represented the joining of the heavenly and earthly aspects of Sikhism. In front of the Golden Temple he built the Akal Takht. he had Guru Arjan arrested. and when he and the Sikhs assisted them the guru became known as the Savior of the Hindus. Hindu Brahmins came from Kashmir (a region in today’s northern India and northeastern Pakistan) to ask Guru Tegh Bahadur to help defend the Hindu communities. the sword of miri symbolized earthly power. The sword of piri symbolized the spiritual power of guruship.” Harimandir. within a year of coming to power. Nevertheless he became the 10th guru and carried on the moral and spiritual legacy with great fervor. sAvioR of Hindus Tegh Bahadur had come to the defense of the Hindu population. Secular affairs would be conducted from the Akal Takht. The Sikhs viewed Arjan as a martyr to the faith and his death generated a strong impulse for self-defense. the ninth guru. tortured. Hargobind. Tegh Bahadur’s son.gir was a very different kind of man and in 1606. In 1609 he built a fortress called the Iron Fort to defend the town of Amritsar. The meekness and gentleness that had characterized the Sikh population was replaced by armed resistance. He put on two swords. succeeded him as guru. This martial atmosphere intensified after the death of Tegh Bahadur.
the sword represents the fight against oppression. The kirpan is one of the five Ks. Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 45 .A ceremonial kirpan carried by a Sikh in Amritsar.
When would it end? Then the guru reappeared with all five men. The guru reminded the people of the need for unity and courage against persecution. Some asked the guru’s mother to stop him. a traditional Hindu festival date. no one uttered a word. on Baisakhi. People were stunned. and four times he returned to the horrified crowd with his sword dripping blood. his sword dripping with blood. Then holding up his weapon he cried. This time a man stood up. a town in the Shivalik hills (part of the Himalayas). “My sword today wants a head. Himmat. and Sahib Chand follow the first two men into the tent. Gobind Singh emerged from the tent. 1699. Guru Gobind Singh called his people together at Anandpur. The people had seen Mokham Chand. The guru repeated the call. Gobind Singh repeated his words.” Gobind Singh’s singular demand numbed the assembly. Let any one of my true Sikhs come forward. Many began to leave. According to the accounts of contemporary Sikh historians and Muslim writers large numbers of Sikhs arrived for the festival and an air of anticipation ran through the crowd. The crowd waited—but not for long. For a long moment no one moved. To the horror of the onlookers he called for another head. Dharam Das.ThE fouNDINg of ThE khaLSa On March 30. panj pyare—THE fivE BElovEd Dharam Das was escorted into the tent and again the guru returned with a bloodied sword. At last Gobind Singh appeared dressed in full battle gear and carrying a gleaming sword. He walked forward and Gobind Singh escorted him into a nearby tent. However another man. The guru wanted one of them to volunteer to die! Confusion turned to fear and a murmur of dismay ran through the gathered crowd. Five times in all Gobind Singh led a man into the tent. His name was Daya Ram and he was a Hindu farmer from Lahore. Now he demanded a third head. They could not believe their ears. stood up to offer himself to the guru’s sword. This was more than the people could endure. now dressed 46 SIKHISM .
a brotherhood with the guru himself. The five then drank from the same bowl—something they could not have done when bound by the traditions of the Hindu caste system—and Guru Eternal thus sealed their pledge of equality and The Adi Granth became the Guru faithfulness. or earlier rituals. who became known as the mother of the Khalsa nation. They swore to fight fearlessly and to give their lives willingly for their faith. Sikhs recite: “Acknowledge the Guru Granth as the visible body of the Gurus. In their daily prayers.” By their willingness to die for their faith they were reborn into a new order. the tenth guru. who Granth. the “Pure Ones” who were willing to follow their guru even to death: I wish you all to embrace one creed and follow one path. His wife. or “Five Beloved. onE CREEd And onE PATH Guru Gobind Singh. Let the four Hindu castes. meaning “lion. Membership in this new order severed all previous family ties and each member received a new surname: Singh. chanting verses from the Adi Granth. THE kHAlsA These five men became the first members of the Khalsa—the “Pure Ones. and to consider all human beings equal. The guru poured water into a steel bowl and stirred it with his sword. From that day on Sikhs have revered the Guru Granth as both the Divine Word and the physical representation of their guru.” who had been willing to follow their guru even to death.” Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 47 .” No longer would these men be bound by the restrictions of their castes. creating amrita. the nectar used in the Sikh baptismal ritual. spoke the following words to the new members of the Khalsa. The guru thus introduced the courageous Panj Pyare. to have faith in the One. without regard to caste or religion. the Guru Eternal of the Sikh people. dropped some sugar into the bowl and its sweetness mingled with the touch of steel. ready to stand up for justice and freedom.like the guru himself in military garb and wearing swords of their own. morning and evening. hereditary occupations. and the line of gurus that had begun with Nanak came to an end. rising above all differences of religion as now practiced.
Young boys dressed in their Khalsa clothes during a procession in the Punjab to remember the Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Brahma. and feel no aloofness from. Let each of the four castes receive my Baptism of the double-edged sword. Do not follow the old scriptures. and Durga. Krishna.) lion And PRinCEss In creating the Khalsa Gobind Singh gave practical form to Nanak’s vision of the Oneness of Ultimate Reality and the Oneness of all people. and so forth. The outer swords. mix freely with one another. one another. Let none pay homage to the Ganges and other places of pilgrimage which are considered to be holy in the Hindu religion. have different duties laid down for them in their scriptures. at the center is a doubleedged sword representing the creative power of God. surrounded by a circle representing the unity of God. the spiritual and temporal power of God. eat out of the same vessel. or worship the Hindu deities such as Rama. a quote from Sujan Rai Bhandari Batalia in Khulasat-ut-Tawarikh. but all should cherish faith in the teachings of Guru Nanak and his successors. The Baisakhi of Guru Gobind Singh. He 48 SIKHISM . or contempt for. crossed at the bottom. abandon them altogether. Some of their turbans are pinned with the khanda symbol. He called on the faithful to “recognize the singular caste of humanity.” words that are still recited by Sikhs everywhere. represent piri and miri. (In Kapur Singh. and adopting the way of mutual help and cooperation.
the Guru Granth Sahib.” which they would retain even after they married.430 pages of the Guru Granth expand on these three words. At last the guru called for the Adi Granth. From that time on men and women no longer traced their ancestry to their fathers. available to both men and women and invited the women to wear the symbols of the Khalsa too. and its relation to the people of the world.” or “There is one Being. According to their accounts on October 6. Overall the Guru Granth contains no historical narratives and no biographical details as do the Jewish and Christian Bibles. Gobind Singh bowed his head in reverence. while Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 49 . ThE CoNTENTS of ThE guru graNTh The Guru Granth opens with the number One. These first three words are the fundamental affirmation of Sikhism.” women would receive the surname Kaur. meaning “princess. meaning “lion. ThE graNTh IS NamED guru Contemporary Sikh historians record the passing of the holy authority of guru from Gobind Singh to the Adi Granth. It is the first word of the first statement of Guru Nanak: Ikk oan kar—literally. Gobind Singh’s declaration thus changed the patriarchal structure of Sikh society. When his disciples brought the holy book to him Gobind Singh placed a coin and a coconut before it. 1708. Its core theme is the individual’s longing for the Ultimate Reality. The Sikh holy book is composed of spiritually exalted poetry.made the amrita ceremony. its relation to the world. The Guru Granth then describes the Reality. much as Nanak had done in naming Angad Guru as his sucessor. As Singh and Kaur both became equal partners in the new family of Sikhism.” All 1. Then he commanded the gathered community to acknowledge the Adi Granth as the guru in his place. Guru Gobind Singh lay dying. “One Reality Is. As men would receive the surname Singh. The Adi Granth became the final Guru. or baptism. He had not yet named a successor and his disciples wondered on whom the mantle of guruship would fall.
or final word. Intellectual understanding is not enough for complete fulfillment. could be understood by people of all cultures. All who eat them. medallions. or gender. and even jewelry. simple and universal. His society was torn by religious conflict that ran counter to the oneness of the Ultimate Reality that Nanak preached. Mundavani—the Seal The Guru Granth ends with the mundavani.” is the same as the Sanskrit om. and contemplation. The symbol for the third word. and contemplation . Nanak used the number One to express the Ultimate Reality.other sections give guidance for daily living—for example not eating halal meat (meat of an animal killed by ritual slaughter) and always engaging in an honorable trade. however.” is an unending arch that symbolizes the eternal nature of the One that is without beginning or end. or “Reality. . was central to Nanak’s vision and to his message. THE “THREE dEliCACiEs” The Guru Granth invites the Sikhs to partake of its offerings. Arjan: On the platter lie arranged three delicacies: Truth. satisfy spiritual hunger. fabric. the fifth guru. kar. He understood the Ultimate Reality as being without form or image and not confined to space. What human term would describe it? In which language? Instead of writing the word ikk or coining a new word to express oneness. . The second word. or “Is. time. Ikk. was visible to all. all who savor them Obtain liberation. ikk oan kar Ikk oan kar is both a verbal and a visual statement. The offerings are also to be savored and enjoyed. and anchor the restless mind and spirit in contemplation. The poetry of the Guru Granth 50 SIKHISM . Through them followers may understand the fundamental essence of the universe. its “three delicacies” of truth. walls. contentment. the seal. The number One transcended barriers of language. the concept of Oneness. canopies. Like the Christian cross it serves as a central symbol depicted on gateways. contentment. oan. of its compiler.
Harbans Singh. are at the back. The community’s ideals. Two khanda symbols. and in the foreground.calls for an aesthetic experience. and rituals derive their meaning from it. Ceremonies related to birth. marriage. a total emotional and mental response from the reader. Sikh symbols on the Guru Granth Sahib in a gurdwara. represented by swords. 51 Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth . The Ikk oan kar symbol— There Is Only One God—is on the left at the back. initiation. institutions. and death take place in its presence. in the middle and on the right. engraved on the shield. ThE guru graNTh IN SIkh LIfE The Guru Granth is the continuing spiritual and historical authority for the Sikhs as well as the source of their literary inspiration.
asserts that the physical presence of the Guru Granth and its poetic contents are the two main forces that have shaped the Sikhs’ conduct and their sense of what it means to be Sikh. in the shrine room of a gurdwara. in Sikh homes the duty often rotates among family members. lower than the platform on which it rests. and supported by 52 SIKHISM . This act of opening the holy book is called prakash. the Guru Granth is treated with the highest respect and veneration. and in gurdwaras among sangat members.Respect for the Guru Granth As the only visible representation of the Sikh religion. They do it homage by standing before it or by sitting on the floor. Every day in Sikh homes and in gurdwaras Sikhs open the Guru Granth at dawn. “making the light manifest. Members of a Sikh community in New York singing kirtan. an eminent Sikh scholar.” Any baptized Sikh may perform prakash. The book is draped in a rich silk and brocade cloth called rumala. Sikh sacred hymns. placed on quilted mats. In its presence Sikhs bow before it and remove their shoes and cover their heads.
There are other special readings as well. which means “to sit comfortably. one particular hymn is repeated after each passage. a 48-hour nonstop reading of the Guru Granth. or it may be akhand. the order or message for the day. called granthis. during which several readers. Evening prayers known as Rahiras are recited and the Guru Granth is closed. the Guru Granth is read through from beginning to end.” Again Ardas is said and vak taken. In sampa. The closing ritual is called sukhasan. This passage is called vak. a seven-day reading. Those present stand humbly in front of it and recite Ardas. one under each side and one in the center. The reading may be saptoh. take turns reading.three cushions. After dusk the Guru Granth is closed. a prayer of supplication. The Guru Granth is then opened at random and the passage at the top of the left-hand page is read aloud. and it may take a month or a year to complete. Sikh Tradition and the Guru Granth 53 . A canopy hangs over it for protection and a whisk waves over it as a sign of respect. Special Readings In times of uncertainty and difficulty or in times of celebration and hope. A khulla reading is one that Sikhs undertake privately.
Sikhs respect the poetry of the Hindu and Muslim saints in the Guru Granth as much as they do the poetry of their gurus. In a shortened version the Mul Mantra can also be found introducing many different sections of the Guru Granth. male or female. a Sikh waves a chouri. the book occupies a special room. the Sikhs continue to live according to Guru Nanak’s words: “There is no Hindu. Usually when a family owns a copy of the Guru Granth. either in a gurdwara or in a private home.” 54 SIKHISM . It is rhythmic and brief. The Mul Mantra is at the heart of Sikh thought. The Mul Mantra precedes the Jap—the first hymn composed by Guru Nanak—and devout Sikhs recite the 38 stanzas of the Jap every morning. Great meaning is packed into its few words.CHAPTER 4 SIKH THOUGHT he Guru Granth begins with a short passage called the Mul Mantra. Thus. in homage over the holy scriptures. who can read Gurmukhi script may read the Guru Granth anywhere. Anyone. there is no Muslim. In the original Punjabi it is not written in sentences but in a few individual words and images that together express the fundamental focus of Sikhism. or whisk. In these words and images the Mul Mantra expresses Sikh metaphysics— T Preparing to read from the Guru Granth. The few lines in this passage state the essential creed. in their daily practice. of the Sikh religion. Like other mantras the Mul Mantra is a portion of a prayer of special beauty and power. the basic belief.
Sikh Thought 55 .
In fact there is no way to portray it at all. It fears nothing and is at odds with nothing. reinforced Nanak’s vision. The One is common to people from all faiths and cultures. He declared that underneath. On the contrary he asked them to acknowledge and be whoever they were as fully as possible. some call it Khuda . There can be no pictures or statues of it. of the Muslims that they be authentic Muslims. all true religions are the same: “Some call it Rama. Sikhism’s most fundamental belief is expressed in the first three words of the Mul Mantra: Ikk oan kar. Nanak never asked people to renounce their religions. or divine incarnation. no beginning and no end. Here is one version: Ikk oan kar sat nam karta purakh nir bhau nir vair akal murat ajuni saibhang gur prasad There is one Being Truth is its name Creator of all Without fear Without enmity Timeless in form Unborn Self-existent [Discovered] through the gift of the enlightener the belief in the nature of being and reality and the relationship of individuals to the universe. some as Allah.iKK OaN KaR B ecause the Mul Mantra. It has no color and no shape. In the Mul Mantra this Ultimate Reality is defined by what it is not: It is without human form and is genderless. “There is one Being. many diﬀerent versions exist. With these words Sikhism rejects outright the Hindu belief in avtarvad.” By stressing the basic similarity of the Hindu and Islamic tradi56 SIKHISM . some worship it as Vishnu. Of the Hindus he asked that they be authentic Hindus. the short passage found at the beginning of the Guru Granth is diﬃcult to translate. Moreover. Arjan. the embodiment of a god in human form. or the One. REACHing THE onE Yet Sikh scripture wholeheartedly accepts and affirms the many ways of reaching the Singular Reality.” iKK The first word of the Mul Mantra is usually written as the number One and proclaims the existence and total Oneness of the Ultimate Reality. the fifth guru. because the Ultimate Reality has no form it cannot be represented visually. It is not limited by space or time.
and in the middle a khanda. Sikhism does not subscribe to a belief in a majestic Theos. . which stands for bravery and spiritual power and which flies over gurdwaras everywhere. represented respectively by Rama (a Hindu deity) and Khuda (the Islamic name of God in Urdu. but it has no image or form. consists of two curved swords to remind Sikhs to serve the Ultimate Reality by teaching the truth and by fighting to defend what is right. So are the Hindu form of worship (puja) and the Muslim prayer (namaz). U. Yet to term Sikhism mono-theistic misses an important part of Guru Nanak’s vision. and Sanskrit words that he might have used to express the One. aum or om. or personal god. As a result scholars categorize Sikhism as a monotheistic religion. Know no distinctions between them. the language widely used by Muslims). The monastery and the mosque are the same. Hindus and Muslims are one! The same Reality is the creator and preserver of all. a Hindu scripture. For Nanak the One is the experience of utter infinity: Ikk oan kar. The first stage.tions. A. The Ultimate Reality The Ultimate Reality is the same for all people. Sikh gurus tried to bring peace and harmony to their divided society. The Sanskrit word for the same concept. In the words of Guru Gobind Singh found in the Guru Granth: . . is the realm of consciousness. explains aum as a four-level journey of the mind. This dimension of personal experience is central to Sikh thought. means “existence. Humans are all one! wiTHouT imAgE oR foRm This Oneness of Reality forms the bedrock of Sikhism. the double-edged sword used to prepare amrita. In that stage people are aware of the world and of their separateness from others: I versus it or them. The Symbol of Sikhism The symbol of Sikhism. to serve as a reminder to all Sikhs that Reality is one. a discus. The Sikh Reality is indeed One. The second stage. or nectar of immortality.” The Mandukya Upanishad. is the subcon- Sikh Thought 57 . To Sikhs the differences were superficial—formalities and externals only. or circle. Persian. OaN From the rich variety of Arabic. Nanak chose the Punjabi word oan.
Other ideas. Reality is not just known innumerable gods are as dust. is a state of deep sleep. In this state the self experiences a state of oneness with the Ultimate Reality. central to Sikh philosophy and thought. M. transported by a higher consciousness. literally means “Truth is the Name. “Millions of Vishnus has It created. Truth it has been within circles of temporality.scious state in which absolute categories start to break down. and Truth it shall be forever. millions of universes has It spawned. the barriers of falsity?” The transition Guru Nanak states. one might experience being in two places at the same time.” says the Guru Granth. and the M are fused. the Jap. “In comparison from Truth to true living is immediate and with the Fearless. The third stage. sat nam.” The objectively. spontaneous.” To the Sikhs Truth is not an objective category but a way of being. Formless One after the statement on Truth the Jap asks. For the Sikhs Guru Nanak’s use of Oan. explains further: “Truth it has been from timeless eternity. Truth it is in the present. or Aum. The logical world begins to dissolve and. Formless One. the U. expresses the belief that the Ultimate Reality is an inner experience rather than an objective knowledge of God. follow logically from it. It must be lived. or total unconsciousness. “How to live a Truthful life? How to break In focusing on the One Sikhism rejects the many gods of Hinduism. millions of Sivas has It raised and assimilated. in the Mul Mantra. It is like sleeping so soundly that one does not recall the difference between having slept for a minute or for an entire day.” The first stanza of the Guru Granth’s first hymn. 58 SIKHISM . but not directly stated. This is the experience of total unity. Immediately The Fearless. In the fourth and final stage the A. One is above the traditional Hindu deities such as Vishnu the Preserver and Siva the Destroyer. oThEr SIkh PhILoSoPhy In its first two lines the Mul Mantra introduces the fundamental beliefs of Sikhism. SaT Nam The second line of the Mul Mantra. In that state people experience an expansion of the mind.
. Sikh Thought 59 . Hukm—Divine Will Hukm is an Arabic word meaning “Divine Order” or “Divine Will. “Through actions one achieves the body. Nadar is esteemed as a precious gift.” Nadar thus allows Sikhs to reach their ideal. According to the Jap.” As Creator of All. hearing. nothing happens outside of it. the Divine Will. through the benevolent glance (nadar). talking.” It is related to the Persian nazar. However nadar. Sikh philosophy claims that the genesis of the world cannot be known: “No one knows the time nor the hour. or walking. In the Guru Granth hukm is presented as the all-embracing principle that governs all activity. In accordance with hukm. Hukm is not apart from the world.” In Sikh thought nadar refers to the divine glance of favor. Everyone and everything exist within the orbit of divine vision: “All action takes place within its sight. The beginning of the world is the outcome of hukm. the benevolent glance.” So is the psychological and physical makeup of human beings.” says Nanak in the Jap. meaning “sight” or “vision. no one can describe. Their good deeds in this life can help them to achieve a better future life. such actions as seeing. dEATH And REBiRTH In general Sikhs believe that after they die they will be reborn into the world in a new form. but. nor the month. the Ultimate Reality operates through it. can break the cycle of death and rebirth.” The unsleeping eye of nadar on the world is a sign of the benevolent aspect of the Ultimate One. Instead of being born into a new body a person can be united with the Formless One. . but of being one with it. an Arabic word meaning “Divine Order” or “Divine Will. nor the date.Natural cycles such as growth and death are also maintained through hukm. all of creation sprang forth in its countless varieties. It is a link between the universe and its divine Source and Preserver. Both creation and continuing life depend on hukm. nadar Nadar is a Persian word loosely translated as “grace. nor the season when creation originated . Through hukm everything came to be but what the hukm is. Their feelings and emotions. and their blessings and misfortunes all come from the Divine Will. one attains liberation from the cycle of birth and death. a state of not simply knowing the Ultimate Reality.
60 SIKHISM . the Golden Temple in Amritsar. The temple rests on a platform in the middle of a sacred reflecting pool. the holiest of Sikh shrines.Sikh pilgrims passing through a gateway leading to the Harimandir (House of God).
This is the anahad sabad. above all things in the physical universe. is recognized through the “gift of the enlightener”— that is. According to Sikh belief everyone is endowed with an inner voice that speaks a Divine message. you are my mother. The Guru Granth says that “The singular One has neither form nor color nor any material. Images of conception. the “Soundless Word. It cannot be seen or touched. through the grace of the guru.” says Guru Arjan. the One. you are my brother. Instead the Word evokes a harmonic response from a Truth that is already inside every individual. you are my friend. THE TRuTH in EACH individuAl The final line of the Mul Mantra. He saw no Being but he clearly heard the call.” How may the Soundless Word be heard? How may people learn to recognize the Divine within? The answer again is sabad. the growth of the unborn child in its mother’s womb. Rather it is a deeply felt truth that echoes within each person.” In Sikh thought sabad is both the way in which the Divine is revealed and the path leading to the Divine Reality. states that ikk oan kar. which is transcendent. “You are my father. They describe the special relationship between the Ultimate Reality and humankind in terms of intimate human relationships. but It is manifested through the true Word (sabad). and birth express the creative force of the UltiSikh Thought 61 .” Like reality the Word has no substance. So it is appropriate that the Word represent the formless nature of the Ultimate. Again this knowledge is not purely intellectual. It was through the Divine Word that Nanak’s revelation at the River Bein came. gur prasad. The gurus do not present an external truth.Sabad—“woRd” Sabad is translated as “Word. PhySICaL ImagES In the Guru Granth the gurus endeavor to express the abstract concepts of Sikh philosophy in concrete images. The so-called Word of the gurus clears the way so that individuals can hear the Word within themselves.
” mate. brilliantly crimson. The Guru Granth uses a wide variety of images to show the many ways of con- 62 SIKHISM . becomes a metaphor that describes the longing for the Ultimate Reality.” The Sikh view is that a separation between male and female denies the wholeness of human nature. “From mother’s blood and father’s semen is created the human form. Sikh scripture emphasizes instead the significance of being human. unfathomable Beloved. “In the warmth of mother’s womb are we first formed. enticer of the hearts. A bride awaiting her divine groom addresses the Ultimate Reality in intimate terms: “O my handsome. overflowing with beauty like the crimson flower. In another verse she lavishly praises the One: “My groom is utterly glorious.” she says.” says the Guru Granth. In it men and women share human suffering and human hope. the highest experience of human love. beneficent. beloved. compassionate.” The writers often speak from the point of view of a woman who addresses the Formless One as “Beloved.The Unfathomable Beloved Marriage.
The varied imagery opens up a range of possibilities for experiencing that Ultimate One. the blacksmith with his anvil. the Guru Granth uses images of working people to highlight the dignity of honest labor. all become metaphors for the relationship of the Universal One to humankind. The explicit male and female imagery in the Guru Granth does not contradict the formless nature of the Ultimate One. especially those that are domesticated by humans. the mother nursing her child. the woman adorning herself for her loved one. Sikh Thought 63 . The potter with his clay. So too do the animals of the earth. Whatever human beings can experience in their world is a part of the Ultimate Reality. Sikh women gathering for prayer in a gurdwara. The Ultimate Reality is above all and includes all. For example. Rather it suggests a vast inclusiveness. These images help to make the abstract concept of the Universal Reality concrete and understandable for Sikh believers.necting with the Ultimate One.
from the varied physical forms of the world. is one of the principles of the Sikh religion. Service to others. Bits of It may be gleaned. Guru Arjan says. form and formlessness. or gathered. Both physical and metaphysical qualities. coexist in the Sikh conception of the Ultimate. “Formless and Form It is both. the Golden Temple in Amritsar. seva. you have a thousand forms but without form you are. 64 SIKHISM . Through various hints human mind and spirit can be launched on a voyage of discovery toward It. enchanting me so!—”According to Sikh belief the Unknowable is not completely unknown. Guru Nanak tries to describe the One: “You have a thousand eyes but without eyes you are.form aND formLESS Sikhs offering water to members of the community as they enter and leave a prayer room at the Harimandir.
but at the same time the Reality is present in nature lies the essence of joy within all of its creation and is part of the and peace fiber of all being. The Ultimate is within everything and above everything at the same time. They see a constant. the The whole creation is an embodiment God in everything.you have a thousand feet. all visible forms are a part of the Formless. The Sikh perspective is to see the particular in the universal and the universal in the particular. smelled. endless. veers away from the sense of wonder that You are the Primal Being. a universe with deﬁnite limits. Many verses in the Guru Granth signify the presence of the Ultimate Reality within the world and within all beings: Sikh Thought 65 . and touched—are changeable and temporary and therefore unreal.” Human language is not adequate to describe this unique One. Because the Ultimate is within everything the world is a joyous place. in nature heard. he Ultimate Reality presents a paradox. inspired message is the understanding that constantly pervading all. skies and nether regions scholars of religion that the Sikh undercomprise nature standing of the Reality is pantheistic. Being for its creation and preservation. or seeming contradiction: The One is inﬁnite. . This suggests to some Earth. This view however of It. . In nature It is seen. fluid connection between the things of the world and the Ultimate. None can comprehend your limits! At the core of Guru Nanak’s aweWithin each and every being you are. above all else. yet it exists within a ﬁnite cosmos. In this view only the universal idea of “rose” is real. you are the is at the heart of the Sikh experience of the Infinite Creator Ultimate Reality. For Sikhs the understanding of the Ultimate Reality is a dynamic process. Particular roses—those that can be seen. In awe the guru exclaims. Form is formless and vice versa. but without feet you are . The cosmos There is a light in all and the light is depends on the all-knowing and all-seeing That One. Western thinkers like the Greek philosopher Plato have tended to separate ideas and pure forms from the particular examples. “I am thoroughly enchanted!” a LIghT IN aLL ThE WorLD T WIThIN aND aBovE aLL In Sikh thought the Ultimate Reality is transcendent. full of possibility and hope.
the first hymn Guru Sikh children in an English gurdwara help to serve the langar following a wedding celebration. and a constant focus on “I” and “me” and “mine” separate the individual from others and from the Universal One. Haumai literally means “I-myself” and it refers to egotism. what keeps people from experiencing it fully? According to Sikhism the root cause of human suffering is haumai. Sikhism regards human life as very precious. The langar is a communal meal cooked by members of the Sikh community which is shared amongst all people present in the gurdwara. arrogance. All humans come from the One so all have within them a spark of the Divine. but Sikhs feel that humans are especially favored because they can approach the Divine One. Yet his words suggest that it is not enough to know the truth.” The Mul Mantra named the Infinite One as Truth.CHAPTER 5 SIKH ETHICS S ikh ethics. All forms of life are worthy of respect. Pride. Nanak viewed Truth as the highest Reality. or code of behavior. One must live it as well. 66 SIKHISM . can be summed up in Guru Nanak’s words: “Truth is higher than all. The goal of the Sikh moral code is to help people experience that divine spark within themselves. but higher still is true living. ThE ProBLEm of Haumai If everyone has a spark of divine Truth within. In the Jap.
Sikh Ethics 67 .
by following a simple formula from Guru Nanak’s Jap: sunia. Hearing the Divine Word is the first step toward living truly.Nanak composed. Sikhs have a word to describe such a person: man mukh. “turned toward the guru. 68 SIKHISM . ill will toward others. having faith. People communicate through words and the Ultimate Reality speaks through the words of people. however. The refrain in the Jap repeats that those who hear the Name remain in constant bliss. The walls of ego can be broken down.” In the Jap it means listening to the Divine Word. malice. According to Nanak. and discussing the One. fasts. The sound of the Divine Name.” the guru says. A person who is full of haumai never experiences the joy of the divine spark within. being full of love. It is the first step on a journey toward unity with the Ultimate Reality. through listening come knowledge and wisdom and through listening all suffering and distress lose their power. An egotistical person’s life is marked by competition. that is how the words are arranged. he compares haumai to a wall that separates a person from the Universal Reality. However words provide hints of Truth. knowing. ovErComINg Haumai How may someone overcome haumai? As Sikhs see it external actions like pilgrimages. leads the listener to the ultimate goal: immortality and freedom from the grip of death. and other practices of self-denial are useless. They are the means of naming. Truth. mania man kita bhau—“hearing.” HEARing THE divinE woRd Sunia literally means “hearing. “As the One utters. Haumai is a chain holding humans in the cycle of death and life. praising.” In contrast gur mukh.” describes someone in harmony with the Divine Word. Blinded by self the person lives for himself or herself alone. singing. Nanak explains that human words are not adequate to explain the Ultimate Reality. and a craving for power. which means “turned toward oneself.
” This third step goes well beyond hearing the Divine Name and having faith. they also help to free other members of the community. It is emotional. Since all are equally children of the One they are treated like kinfolk. The institutions of langar. open to everyone. It dissolves the individual ego and opens people to experiencing the other. Faith cannot be discussed or analyzed. and the Khalsa provide an outlet for this love. seva. truth. The response of love is vital to Sikh philosophy and ethics alike. Sikh ethics are ways of expressing love for the Ultimate One. who are linked together by the grace of the Ultimate One. sangat. Acts of love toward all fellow beings show love for the One. A residential community for Sikhs with disabilities built by a Sikh charitable foundation to serve the community’s health and education needs. Nanak himself says that this step is hard to define.HAving fAiTH Mania means “having faith. Sikh Ethics 69 . their family and friends. not intellectual. However Nanak describes the state of faith as the pathway to freedom.” It is the second step on the spiritual journey. By believing in the Divine Word Sikhs understand that they not only free themselves from the cycle of birth and death. Love frees those who love from all limitations and barriers. lovE—THE HigHEsT foRm of ACTion Man kita bhau means “to be full of love.
“Only they who love find the Ultimate Reality. jisu antari priti lagai so mukta.” he wrote. This principle of sharing is basic to the institutions of sangat and langar. Sikhs understand it to mean that not to work if one is able is an offense to the faith. for in their heart lies love. 70 SIKHISM .” It is manual work—upright work in pursuit of one’s living and is one of the basics of Sikh ethics. “distribution” or “sharing.” kirat karni In Punjabi kirat means “the labor of one’s hands. te nam japna: “to labor for one’s keep.Nurturing Love Nanak suggests that love is the highest form of action: “Those who hear.” The 10th guru. It is a central theme in his composition Bacitar Natak.” It is based on mutual respect and sharing among equals. to share with others. They cleanse themselves by bathing at the sacred fount which is within. The term underscores the dignity of all labor. Honest work and its satisfactions create a positive attitude toward life. wrote of love as the pathway to the Infinite One. They who beseechingly cry out—discover peace. The Guru Granth applauds love as the supreme virtue: “They who worship the One with adoring love and thirst for Its True Love. appropriate and nurture love in their hearts. The phrase comes from vand. Sikhs reject withdrawal from society. PoPuLar moraLITy At the everyday level Sikh morality is best summed up in this maxim: kirat karni. Home and family are the rule. Vand Chhakna Vand chhakna is the sharing of money and goods before using them oneself. It is essential in Sikh ethics. not on charity.” and chhakna. “to eat.” — in the Guru Granth Love purifies the soul. which have been primary factors in shaping Sikh conduct. vand chhakna. For the Sikh gurus love is the only path to true liberation: “They who have love within their hearts alone are emancipated”—in Punjabi. Gobind Singh. and to practice the repetition of the Divine Name. Just as members of a family share their earnings and goods with one another for the good of the whole. so Sikhs try to act in the larger family of the community for its well-being.
“Within this infinite matrix are myriads of species. knowledge. Here the individual becomes aware of the vastness of creation: millions Sikh Ethics 71 . and people should live harmoniously with them. They are the realms. It is made up of nights and seasons and dates and days. truth. is nam.” Nam does not take the place of other acts but it is the source from which all ethical action comes. Gyan khand The second stage is gyan khand. This is the earthly life. Wahe Guru. infinite are their names and forms. or regions. one does not become pure. of duty. and austerity.nam japna Nam japna is to remember the Divine Name. and truth and can be described as follows: dharam khand The first stage is dharam khand. the realm of knowledge. without contemplation on nam. all are contained in nam. grace.” Constantly to repeat the name of the One is a great virtue in the Sikh religion.” ThE PaTh To uLTImaTE rEaLITy In the final lines of the Jap Guru Nanak presents five stages by which human beings can ascend toward the Ultimate Reality. Nam literally means “name” and japna. for whatever someone does has an effect. Sikhs believe that actions are important. which means “Wonderful Guru” or “God is great. Earthly existence is not to be scorned but to be lived fully and intensely. They are a path leading to higher and higher levels of experience. According to Guru Amar Das. Being on earth offers people the opportunity to live ethically and with purpose. The world contains uncounted varieties of life. “Chastity. of time and space. to “repeat” or “meditate on. art.” Sikhs remind themselves of nam throughout the day by repeating the Guru Mantra. Through the Ultimate Reality all are interconnected.” says Nanak. the realm of duty. continence. A line in the Guru Granth says nam is more important spiritually than other traditionally religious actions: “Superior to all acts of piety. charity.
Sikhs say.” says Nanak. “Here live warriors and heroes of mighty power. Nanak describes it as the home of those who love the One.” Unless they can feel the power of beauty people cannot know the Ultimate Reality. countless moons. A person has all of these. one conquers the world.” Indeed they see outer conquests as being much easier than internal ones. When someone realizes how limitless creation is he or she also realizes how small human beings are.of inhabited planets like Earth. As Nanak says. saram khand. India. Sikhs do not distinguish among physical. Humility replaces ego. karam khand. A Sikh family enjoying a visit to the Taj Mahal in Agra. It is an important stage in the spiritual journey. “One who can appreciate fragrance will alone know the flower. “By conquering oneself. Knowledge of creation brings with it an awe of the creator. “Here are sharpened consciousness. karam khand The fourth stage.” he says. Saram khand The third stage. touch. is the realm of grace. is the realm of art.” The cultivation of the appreciation of beauty opens the way to the next stage of spiritual development. and smell in this world. Who are these warriors and heroes? “The true hero. Art sharpens and refines human sensibility. The men in the group are wearing turbans to cover their uncut hair. Heroines and heroes in this realm of 72 SIKHISM . mental. and constellations. Knowledge destroys limitations and prejudices and creates an all-accepting and all-welcoming attitude. mind. and spiritual senses. which is there to see. countless mountains. In Nanak’s words. and discrimination. hear. suns. In this realm people develop an appreciation of beauty. “is one who kills the evil of egotism within.” Physical strength and power are not the ideal. taste. one of the symbols of membership of the Khalsa. wisdom.
SaCh khand The realm of truth. intellectual. and no more deaths.” It cannot be expressed in human terms. the realm of truth. for that True One is close to their hearts. Ikk Oan Kar.” For the individual there will be no more rebirths into the world. sach khand. The opening of the Guru Granth names the One. never . Nanak describes this stage as “hard as iron. They are exempt from the cycle of birth and death. The higher they ascend.” The realm of truth is the sphere of the One. It is not a journey away from the world. It is on earth that Sikhs work to develop their moral. and spiritual capacities and to catch a glimpse of the Ultimate Reality. the more deeply they feel that they experience life here and now. and earthly considerations. They are replaced by absolute joy.” says the guru. The self is freed from all limitations of space. The benevolent glance of the One and the joyful vision of those who seek it come together. . The Sikh spiritual journey is one of love for fellow beings. In this realm the individual finally reaches true living. the home of the Ultimate Reality. Sach khand. Rather it is grounded in life on earth. and no more lives. It is the purpose of all human existence. constellations.” says Guru Nanak. and universes. the experience of life in the world. “Here are continents. time. but higher still is true living. Sikh Ethics 73 . their counting never ending. as “Truth. is the fifth and highest stage. In the home of the Ultimate Reality the individual and the Divine One merge. and an insight into beauty.grace are those who are in control of themselves. Firm in their conviction and full of joy they ascend to the final stage in their quest for the Ultimate Reality. “They are rejoicing. except as union with infinity. artistic. is the fifth and highest stage by which human beings can ascend toward the Ultimate Reality. gender. . The Realm of Truth “Truth is higher than all.
rELIgIouS LIfE A Sikh’s first words of greeting reveal the deeply religious dimension of his or her life. a family gathers for a naming ceremony before the Guru Granth Sahib. gently bowing. unity with the formless One. England. Sikhs attempt to connect their every daily activity to their religion. 74 SIKHISM . When one Sikh meets another each greets the other by placing his or her two hands together. The Sikh greeting combines the second line of the Mul Mantra.” which means “Truth is the Timeless One. and saying “Sat Sri Akal. Instead of speaking their In a gurdwara in Manchester.” Their greeting is quite different from the usual Western greeting of shaking hands and calling each other by name. “Truth is the Name. The granthi.” and the ideal of Sikh ethics. the last stage of spiritual ascension. the Sikh holy scriptures. recites prayers before the family sit down for the naming ritual.CHAPTER 6 RELIGIOUS LIFE AND RITES OF PASSAGE W hether they live in a traditional community in a Punjabi village or in an ultramodern suburb of Los Angeles or Chicago. standing in front of the family.
Religious Life and Rites of Passage 75 .
The steel of the bracelet symbolizes spiritual courage and strength. Young girls wear long braids and women tie up their hair in a variety of styles. Parents’ friends and associates are referred to as “uncles” and “aunts. Sikh women dress in a particular style and they can be identified by their clothing—loose trousers called salvors. Uncut hair is one of the five Ks. Men and teenage boys do not shave their beards or cut their hair. On festive occasions the colors of the Sikhs’ turbans and scarves are usually quite brilliant. Sikhs refer to friends and even distant associates as family members. and a long. Little boys wear their hair coiled in a topknot with a kerchief tied around it. Both men and women wear a steel bracelet. established by Guru Gobind Singh toward the end of the 17th century. the Sikh second names. Finally. kara. Male athletes also wear the topknot. Women and girls refrain from cutting their hair as well. a shirt that reaches to the knees.” Children accept the friends of their brothers and sisters as their own brothers and sisters and the friends of their parents and grandparents as their own parents and grandparents. which is made from almost five yards of cloth and comes in many colors. reflect their religion. Singh for men and Kaur for women. Sikhs consider all members of the Sikh community to be part of their extended family. Throughout their 76 SIKHISM . which has no beginning and no end. since sprinting or other such activities would be difficult to do while wearing a turban. The Sikhs’ appearance is noticeably different. symbols of the Khalsa.own names as they greet one another. and the circle is a reminder of the unity of the Ultimate One. proclaiming membership in a society of equals and marking them as Sikhs. On serious occasions the headgear is usually more somber. around the right wrist. and people from the same village were not permitted to marry because the relationship was too close. Sikhs humbly acknowledge the One as their True Reality. Until recent times a Punjabi village was regarded as a family unit. Men and older boys wear the turban. sheer scarf wound around the neck or over the head.
in the gurdwara. Sikhs enthusiastically give time and energy to family members. Sikhs seek jobs for. race. wEAving REligion inTo lifE Sikhs weave their religion into their lives. or with the sangat. provide financial assistance to. Fathers pray while picking up bedding. cleaning. Even in such American cities as Los Angeles or Washington. serving others with a cheerful attitude. in their new home they give to charity and share their Thanksgiving meal with the homeless. They send money home to India for aged parents. Complete strangers who identify themselves as coming from the same village or as having attended the same school or college. or gardening. In small areas of northern India hotels and inns are practically unknown. working parents call on relatives and grandparents originally from the Punjab to help care for children. D. Sikhs who have migrated continue to share their earnings with relatives and friends and their community. or congregation.C. though they may be thousands of miles away. Mothers recite stanzas from the Jap as they prepare breakfast or comb their children’s hair. They try to incorporate the spirit of seva and langar into all their relationships. Seva. Child Care In India babysitting is unknown among the Sikhs. will automatically be showered with hospitality. for weddings of siblings.. and friends. They may say their prayers alone. If their home is large Religious Life and Rites of Passage 77 . receive a warm welcome from their host families and are given bedding and food. with their families. Grandparents. and uncles—whether related by blood or by faith— care for children. for schools and hospitals. whether invited or not. Morning prayers reverberate through a Sikh home as family members go about their activities. and religion. breaking down the barriers of caste. inTEgRATing THE sACREd And THE sECulAR Sikhs attempt at all times to integrate the sacred with the secular.lives Sikhs try to bring others into their own family. relatives. Sikh guests. is thus a part of everyday life. and extend domestic comfort to fellow Sikhs. aunts. or even as being acquainted with a relative’s friend.
or tune their radios to a Sikh station. Wahe 78 SIKHISM . In the Punjab kirtan. the five verses form the Nit Nem. Some Sikhs might visit a neighborhood gurdwara. Sikh family members ask one another. Throughout the course of their daily schedules Sikhs never stop expressing their love for the Divine. “Have you done your Nit Nem?” In addition Sikhs recite two evening prayers. Swayyai. is broadcast by radio and television from the Golden Temple in Amritsar. With the meditation on the name of the Ultimate. Before they begin their prayers Sikhs quiet their minds by repeating the Mul Mantra five times and the Guru Mantra. The Ultimate Reality is part of time and space. Rahiras and Kirtan Sohila. Some Sikhs might choose to read the Guru Granth.enough for a separate worship room a family may gather there in the morning to recite their prayers. or sacred music. Others might pray in a quiet spot at home or go to the gurdwara. These “five verses” are Jap. Sikhs regularly recite morning prayers called Bani. Others might pray as they drive to work. “Wahe Guru”—”Wonderful Guru”—the Sikhs exclaim. before and after anything they undertake. and they lead the worshipper through the five khands. Why should that One not be remembered everywhere and at every moment? From the Sikh perspective daily routine is filled with the Divine Presence. before and after meals. Similarly Sikhs might recite their evening prayers as they tend to various chores or relax on a bicycle ride or a walk. and Anand. divinE PREsEnCE in All THings True living for Sikhs involves remembering the One Reality as often and as intimately as possible. During certain hours of the day Sikhs who live near a gurdwara can hear the prayers and participate from their own lawns or verandas. and neighbors often gather to listen to the hymns. “the everyday routine’ Every morning as they prepare for work and school. thus combining devotions with a morning walk. listen to tapes of scriptural readings. the stages of spiritual development from earthly duty to heavenly bliss. Jaap. Benati Chaupai.
their hair is tied in a cloth knotted at the top. when their minds are fresh and the atmosphere is serene. ThE DaILy PrayErS Jap (pronounced JUP) is Guru Nanak’s composition. It is the first prayer in the Guru Granth and it expresses the basic philosophy of the Sikhs. The five verses that are said are called Nit Nem—“everyday routine. They appear in his book of poetic com- Young members of a Sikh family gathered for their morning prayers. The Jap describes dawn as the “ambrosial hour. Gobind Singh. fulfilling the commandment given to Nanak at the River Bein: “Rejoice in My Name. Jaap (pronounced JAP) and Swayyai are compositions of the 10th guru.” Even though the young brothers have not yet undergone initiation into the Khalsa.” and Sikhs feel that it is the best time for hearing the Divine Word. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 79 . Sikhs recite it at dawn. over and over as they meditate on the Ultimate. They also repeat the Guru Mantra many times throughout the day.” or the “hour of heavenly nectar.Guru.
It consists of hymns from Guru Nanak. or initiation into the Khalsa and the fellowship of the Sikhs. It expresses work of Gobind Singh. They also repeat the Guru Mantra many times throughout the day. Swayyai are quatrains. The Rahiras ends with stanzas from the Anand. or “bliss. In ending helps Sikhs to focus on the Ultimate Realwith couplet 199 instead of 200 it ity described in Nanak’s Jap. The Jaap and the Gobind Singh’s reverence for the Swayyai form an important part of their transcendent One. Summer and winter Sikhs recite Rahiras at dusk. With the words “I beg that I keep remembering you” Sikhs ask never to be allowed to forget the name of the Ultimate. and Guru Arjan. or four-line rhymes. The 10 Swayyai that Sikhs include in their daily prayers also come from the Dasam Granth. or “supplication in quatrains” by Gobind Singh begs the help and protection of the Universal One. Benati Chaupai. Before they begin their prayers Sikhs quiet their minds by repeating the Mul Mantra five times and the Guru Mantra.” Rahiras is part of the evening service. They also ask that they be saved from evil and that their people be happy and free.positions called the Dasam Granth. and praises the daily prayers. Anand. The Benati Chaupai is also a part of this evening prayer. Repeating it poem is 199 couplets long. Wahe Guru. Sikhs also recite the Swayyai during the amrita ceremony. Guru Ram Das. The Dasam Granth is different from the Guru Jaap is a poetic offering to the Granth but Sikhs esteem it highly as the Ultimate Reality. there tone for the day. They reject all forms of external worship and express Nanak’s message of love. just as the day and the night come together. These rhymes stress devotion as the essence of religion.” by Guru Amar Das. and sets the shows that in the Ultimate. The sound and rapid rhythm. represents the end of the spiritual journey. over and over as they meditate on the Ultimate. The Jaap has an energetic One’s many divine qualities. is no ending. fulfilling the commandment received by Guru Nanak: “Rejoice in My Name. It expresses the hope for union with the One and for the joy of being forever in the realm of truth. Through the Rahiras Sikhs show their respect for the transcenA Poetic Offering 80 SIKHISM .
seek the protection of the all-powerful One. which means “thanksgiving” and. People gather around the Guru Granth and usually everyone sits on the floor. The steaming karahprasad.” It is similar to the Greek word eucharist. by Arjan. During its preparation Sikhs remain in an attitude of reverence. Bhog can take place anywhere—in a room in someone’s home. and stars. the sweet sacrament.dent Reality. They sing the praises of the Divine. sun. moon. which consists of equal parts of butter. The second presents the oneness of the Ultimate. The fourth hymn. electric. in the spiritual sense. teachers. Bhog involves reading the concluding pages of the Guru Granth and sharing the Sikh sacrament of karahprasad. explains how the sound of the Divine Name eases all suﬀering and ends the cycle of death and birth. It portrays the cosmos worshipping in harmony—the skies. and express their joy at hearing the Word within themselves. It promises that the person who comes to know the Divine Mystery will enjoy the bliss and freedom of spiritual immortality. It invites people to take the opportunity of life to serve others and win merit. celebrates life on earth. karahpraSad Members of the community prepare karahprasad. flat dish and covered with a clean cloth. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 81 . refers to the Christian sacrament of Holy Communion. and philosophies in the world. is placed on the right side of the Guru Granth. with their heads covered and their feet bare. The ﬁrst three hymns are by Guru Nanak. The ﬁfth hymn. Then one of the leaders respectfully lifts it and carries it on his or her head to the congregation. or in a gurdwara. by Ram Das. The ﬁrst hymn speaks of the union of the individual self with the Ultimate Reality. and sugar prepared in a large steel pot over a wood fire or on a coal. Its leaders are members of the Sikh congregation and both men and women may lead. When the karahprasad is ready it is put in a large. in a public hall. It is also recited at cremations or funerals. with its rich aroma. or gas burner. in spite of the great diversity of scriptures. flour. which concludes every religious ceremony. facing the holy text. irtan Sohila consists of ﬁve hymns and is the ending to evening prayers. and all growing things are an oﬀering to the Divine. They are followed by one each from Guru Ram Das and Guru Arjan. kIrTaN SohILa—ThE hymN of PraISE K ThE BHOG CErEmoNy The word bhog literally means “pleasure. The third rejects external piety and ritual. and they recite hymns from the Guru Granth. Sikhs recite it as the holy book is closed before they go to bed.
All who are present are invited to partake of and savor the sacrament. for any family event. They recall their first 10 gurus and the embodiment of their spirit in the Guru Granth. for the day. rITES of PaSSagE The Guru Granth is read for all rites of passage. and the blessing of the day recalls that purpose. the Sikhs bow in front of their sacred text touching their foreheads to the ground. They also remember events of Sikh heroism. exclaiming “Wahe Guru”—“Wonderful Guru.kirtan—sACREd Hymns During bhog a group of musicians usually sings hymns from the Guru Granth.” Toward the end of the Ardas the leader asks the congregation for a special blessing. While wishing for the good of all. and are followed by the mundavani. devotion. and Contemplation. In this prayer Sikhs remember the Ultimate Reality. Each reading of the Guru Granth is undertaken for a special purpose. The congregation then interprets the passage chosen from in the Guru Granth in the context of the special purpose of the day’s service. The leading member of the gathering. A reader reads the inaugural hymn and then slowly begins to chant the last five pages of the Guru Granth. THE ARdAs After the reading the entire congregation stands. or Divine Command. and then seat themselves on the floor in front of their holy book. Contentment. These pages begin with 57 couplets by the ninth guru. The readings differ: 82 SIKHISM . Then the reader opens the Guru Granth and reads the hymn at the top of the left-hand page to obtain the hukm. which stamps the Guru Granth as a platter holding the three important delicacies of Truth. and the congregation joins in. and martyrdom. the seal of Guru Arjan. Tegh Bahadur. With hands folded and heads bowed they recite the Ardas. begins the Ardas. the prayer of supplication. or for blessings on a new job or house. The Ardas ends with the whole congregation praying for the prosperity and happiness of all humanity. or any other person who can read the Gurmukhi script of the Guru Granth.
Family members and Sikh musicians playing for the bride and groom after their wedding service and langar meal in a gurdwara. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 83 . Sikh marriages mark an important union between two families and celebrations will continue at a family home or in a venue hired for the occasion.
and walk outside to the lawn or into another room where langar is being served. The members of the congregation stand. the community meal. T follows the bhog ceremony. Some seat themselves in long rows on the ﬂoor to partake of the meal. buttery handful of this Sikh sacrament in his or her outstretched palms. regardless of religious aﬃliation. Each member of the congregation receives a warm. The sacrament is distributed to all. Many times langar. 84 SIKHISM . the Sikh sacrament.rECEIvINg KaRaHPRaSaD he bhog thanksgiving service ends with the distribution of karahprasad. serving. Members of a congregation receiving karahprasad. while others help with the cooking. bow before the Guru Granth. and cleaning up.
rest of the amrita. and the person performI present this child and with Your Grace ing the ceremony prepares the amrita by I administer the amrita mixing sugar with water and reading five (nectar of immortality) stanzas of the Jap. Devout families often concludes with the following request that the baby be baptized in the prayer: amrita ceremony. Wealthy families. and death appear in the Sikh Rahit Maryada.they may be continuous for 48 hours or they may be any slower variation thereof. Sometimes the family requests Name-Giving Ceremony that the Guru Granth be fully read during The name-giving ceremony the baby’s first visit.” NamE-gIvINg In Sikhism there are no taboos surrounding childbirth. The prescribed forms for Sikh rituals relating to baptism. The mother drinks the and the Motherland. for 40 days after the birth of a child. Guru Nanak and his successors rejected the generally accepted notion in the India of their day that a household was impure. During their visit the family offers money and silk coverings for the Guru Granth. marriage.) However the Sikh gurus regarded the birth of any child. (In traditional India the home in which a girl was born was considered impure longer than the home in which a boy was born. boy or girl. however. ings for children. birthday parties in Sikh life are usuto the Guru ally quiet family affairs. Granth.) celebrations. Parents take their baby for his or her first visit to the gurdwara as soon as such a visit is suitable. reading from the Guru May the whole creation be blessed. Although the birth of a child is a major May the holy food be acceptable event. may have big gather(In Sir Jogerndra Singh. almost like wedding Sikh Ceremonies. or “Book of Ethical Codes. or unclean. May the child be inspired with devotion. Families celebrate By the ever-increasing glory of the Divine Name by reciting kirtan. After the concluding May the child grow up to be a true Sikh prayer a few drops of amrita are placed in Devoting the self to the service of others the child’s mouth. And all Sikh ceremonies culminate with the bhog ceremony. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 85 . and preparing langar. as a divine gift.
Sikhs do not often have different ﬁrst names for boys and girls. water. They choose a name by consulting the Guru Granth. sugar. or steel bracelet. during a name-giving ceremony.” After the hymns the Ardas prayer is said and the sacrament of karahprasad.ChooSINg a NamE T he timing and organization of the namegiving ceremony depend on the wishes of the parents. At this time the child also receives his or her ﬁrst kara. A popular hymn for name-giving ceremonies contains these words: “May you have the felicitations of your father and mother and may you always remember the name of the Ultimate Provider. The addition of the name Kaur or Singh indicates the gender of the child. 86 SIKHISM . a mixture of sugar and water. Musicians then recite hymns of thanksgiving. a mixture made of equal amounts of ﬂour. The child receives a name beginning with the ﬁrst letter at the top of the left-hand page of the Guru Granth. While the spine of the Guru Granth rests on the cushions. is distributed to all. and butter. a reader holds the holy book closed with both hands and then gently lets it open at random. Baby receiving amrita.
amrita is not some amrita initiation. As with all Sikh ceremonies. race. and a poetic spirituality. or baptism. As they recite these five prayers. Jaap. military valor. one of the five says the Ardas. After the prayers. Or it may be later in life—some people even wait until their own combines clarity of mind. and Anand. each time saying “Wahe Religious Life and Rites of Passage 87 . The initiates receive the holy liquid five times. For the Sikh initiasoon as a boy or a girl is old enough tion ceremony amrita is prepared by mixto be able to read the scripture and ing water and sugar with a double-edged comprehend the articles of the Sikh sword while prayers are chanted.The Age of Initiation Amrita initiation is the reenactment of the ceremony that took place when the Amrita initiation. Chaupai. Amrita is a Sanskrit word social standing who is prepared to meaning “immortal. The five drink the amrita from their cupped hands and sprinkle some on their eyes and hair. No particular age is ity. “Any man or woman of whatever nationality. enclosed room.” says the Sikh magical potion that leads to immortalRahit Maryada. however. The divine nectar introduces the individual into the Khalsa. Any five Sikhs who are already members of the Khalsa can administer the ceremony. the casteless society with its belief in the One Infinite Reality. It may be as of Ultimate Oneness. It may be conducted virtually anywhere. community has the right to receive In Sikhism. Amrita faith. represented by sugar. or Singh in 1699. The five fill a steel bowl with clean water and sugar. Rather it signifies an inner experience prescribed for initiation. amRiTa INITIaTIoN ConduCTing THE amrita CEREmony Amrita initiation can take place at any age. sweetness of character. the five stir the water and sugar with a small sword. the amrita initiation does not have to take place in the gurdwara. water. represented by the sword. but it is usually held in a quiet. kneel on the right knee as if ready for battle.” and it traditionaccept the rules governing the Sikh ally describes the nectar of immortality. and recite the Jap. The Guru Granth and a reader must be present. Swayyai. Then the amrita is served. represented by children are grown. represented by the chanting of the sacred verses. is Khalsa was established by Guru Gobind open to all.
is forbidden. Marriage between children.” living As kHAlsA sikHs After the ceremony they all share the ambrosial nectar.” “The Khalsa belongs to the Wonderful Guru and victory belongs to the Wonderful Guru.guru ji ka khalsa wahe guru ji ki fateh. Like those of most Indian couples Sikh marriages. and no person is made to marry against his or her will. and they are to live as Khalsa Sikhs. Their historical and spiritual parentage makes them all brothers and sisters. marrIagE Marriage is regarded as an important rite of passage in every society. Wahe Guru. 88 SIKHISM . remembering the One Singular Reality. both in India and in Western countries. Sikhs see marriage not only as the uniting of two people but also as the uniting of two families. Then together they recite Guru Nanak’s Mul Mantra and the Guru Mantra. are arranged. and the marriage takes place with the advice and assistance of the extended family on both sides. The initiates are told that they are now children of Guru Gobind Singh and his wife Mata Sahib Kaur. who had a short life—were married. The distinctive Sikh rite of amrita initiation concludes with karahprasad. Sikhs feel that people best fulfill their individual potential within marriage. but for the Sikhs it is a means of serving the Divine Reality and fellow humanity. Thus they are to maintain the principles of the Guru Granth and their physical identity through the five Ks. Divorce is legal and both men and women can remarry. Remarriage of widows is an accepted practice as well. once a common practice in India. Marriage arrangements may be made anytime after a young person turns 18. often families wait until a prospective bride or groom has finished college or become established in a career. Great care is taken in choosing partners. but this is often not the case. They are not to eat the meat of an animal killed by ritual slaughter. If the couple are from the same locality they may know each other. All Sikh gurus—with the exception of Guru Har Krishan. usually by the couple’s parents. all sipping from the same bowl.
The red head scarf is to be worn by the bride at the engagement ceremony. and sometimes a ring to the home of the groom. or date). and sing songs and dance together. who takes a bit of the dried fruit (chhuhara. The sign of blood and life. The ceremony ends with the recitation of the Ardas and the taking of hukm. who paint her hands with henna. money. During the engagement the bride. accompanied by jewelry. but if the two parties wish it the engagement takes place before the Guru Granth in the future groom’s house. a reddish-brown dye obtained from the leaves of a henna plant. When the bride’s group arrives the groom’s family takes them to the Guru Granth. signifying acceptance of the match and the gifts. and other gifts. A formal engagement is not necessary in Sikh life. The ceremony is thus different from a simple exchange of rings between the couple. or red head scarf. to the bride-to-be. the bride’s relatives and friends take gifts of sweet foods. in which the groom’s family offers a chunni charauna. red is also the color of the Sikh bridal outfit. BEfoRE THE wEdding One to three days prior to the wedding the prospective bride and the groom observe separate periods of seclusion. sweet foods. clothes. To people in the East. has her own celebration with her female relatives. This ceremony is often followed by one in the bride’s home. Both avoid Religious Life and Rites of Passage 89 . and they place their gifts in front of the book. The families then wave money around the groom’s head to symbolize a prosperous life. including a red thread to be braided into the bride’s hair. with her female relatives.ENgagEmENT Many Sikhs weave customs into their wedding celebrations that are not specifically part of the Sikh religion but rather are a part of Punjabi culture. a bracelet (kara). dried fruits. red is the color of good fortune. In a Sikh engagement the prospective groom and bride do not meet. Later the money is given to charity. The two families sing scriptural hymns together and the bride’s father then presents their gifts to the prospective groom.
a ceremony in which the eldest sister ties a sihra. music. around the groom’s forehead. The sister decorates the mare and braids her reins with red thread. and the groom gives money to his sisters and cousins. Then comes sihra bandhi. First they recite the Ardas. her companion beats on the wooden center with a spoon and the others sing Punjabi folk songs. While the lead singer plays the drum placed beneath her knee. the mixture leaves the skin light and clean. The bride’s family also provides new outfits for the groom and his family. A younger brother or a nephew or cousin 90 SIKHISM . After the bath each puts on new clothes. A traditional version of a modern bath scrub. or bandhi. a nose ring. In the meantime the mare on which the groom will travel to the bride’s home is fed with barley and gram. and the competition is vigorous. In the evenings female friends and relatives on both sides gather and sing songs to the accompaniment of a drum. clothes. Just as everything is complete and the groom is ready to proceed. The singers may make up songs on the spot. and those on the bride’s side are called suhag. In return for this tying. Often a team of young girls competes against a team of older women. Then the groom’s eldest sister-in-law (his brother’s wife) puts kohl—a dark cosmetic-like eye shadow—around the groom’s eyes. ivory bracelets. THE dAy of THE wEdding Before the groom and his party leave for the marriage ceremony at the bride’s home they observe several rituals. and clapping. and milk. turmeric. the sister receives money from the groom. From her maternal relatives the bride receives a headband.dressing up and going out but their homes resound with joy and music. Each is given a massage with a mixture of flour. and utensils. a shining veil made of gilded strings with a plume on top. a flour mixture. The songs on the groom’s side are called ghorian. This rite of purification is accompanied by song. On the eve of the wedding both bride and groom take ritual baths in their respective homes. the groom’s sister takes the reins of the horse and jokingly demands gifts from her brother.
who is the author of the 40-stanza hymn called Anand. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 91 . When they reach the bride’s home a formal meeting of the two families takes place. and is also an important part of the Sikh wedding ceremony. and the complete Anand is recited on all important occasions. which literally means “blissful occasion. Anand karag can be traced back to the time of the third guru. meaning “circling. It was oﬃcially recognized as such by the Sikh Marriage Act of 1909. of the groom acts as the best man.CIrCLINg ThE guru graNTh T he Sikh marriage ceremony is known as anand karag. Ram Das (1574–81). Six stanzas from this hymn form a part of the Sikhs’ daily prayers.” a hymn in four stanzas. The bride and groom approaching the Guru Granth. Amar Das (1552–74). The Lavan. and as the procession begins he sits behind the groom on the horse. This meeting is called milni. The bride’s party receives the groom’s party by chanting hymns of welcome. was composed by the fourth guru. This is a legal ceremony as well as a religious one.” and in which the groom and bride circle the Guru Granth four times as the wedding hymns are chanted. which they will walk around four times during the marriage ceremony.
the groom sits down before the holy book. Once again the members of the wedding party wave money around one another’s heads. Usually the speaker reiterates Guru Amar Das’s emphasis on marriage as a “union of the divine spark” rather than as a civil or social contract. Musicians sing a passage from the Guru Granth recounting how one rejoices and tastes nectar in the company of saints. The speaker reminds the couple of their obligations.” linking THE CouPlE After the speech the bride’s father unites the bride and groom with a saffron-colored scarf. with the exception of the couple and their respective parents or guardians. A scholar or a politician next makes a formal speech. joins him and sits on his left. “They are not husband and wife who sit side by side next to each other. Blessings are sought for the couple. only they are truly wedded who personify one single spirit in two bodies. This time. anand karaj The anand karaj. can take place in a gurdwara or at home on a terrace. or marriage ceremony. Introductions follow. brother to brother. Then the wedding group makes its way toward the Guru Granth. addressing the couple and explaining the significance of Sikh marriage. not only toward each other but also toward their families. The father of the groom is introduced to the father of the bride. In the Guru Granth the fourth guru says. The opening Ardas is said. uncle to uncle.Ardas is said. While kirtan. and friend to friend. and society at large. Often members of the bride’s family give gifts such as blankets and jewelry to the family of the groom. The bride. are going on the guests and hosts assemble. After bowing. Each family member meets the other with a welcoming embrace. so long as the Guru Granth is present. their community. in a drawing room— anywhere. the entire congregation is seated. He places one end of the scarf in the 92 SIKHISM . in a courtyard. The ceremony begins with the singing of scriptural hymns. accompanied by her friends and relatives. the musical recitations. the mother to the mother.
The ceremony concludes with the customary singing of passages from Anand and the recitation of Ardas. It is a poignant. During the fourth stanza the entire congregation showers the bride and groom with flower petals as a sign of rejoicing. is received from the Guru Granth. a marriage that is both religious and legal.groom’s hands. As each verse is recited and sung the couple reverentially circle the Guru Granth in a clockwise direction. and places the other end in the bride’s hand. this time with the entire congregation standing. consisting of circling the Guru Granth four times. Before and after each circuit the couple bows before the Guru Granth. The musicians recite a scriptural verse that urges the bride to ignore all empty praise and slander and be totally attached to the bond symbolized by the scarf. This gesture is symbolic of their marriage consent and their commitment to each other. Tied with the scarf. the divine command. This rite of linking the couple together is a physical representation of the spiritual union mentioned in the Guru Granth. which describes marriage as a rite of passage into higher and higher circles of existence. and karahprasad. moving. No vows are exchanged. many Sikhs take this rite to mean that the daughter is no longer a part of her parents’ family and henceforth belongs entirely to her husband and her husband’s family. Finally hukm. However. husband and wife together are to renounce all evil and devote themselves fully to the Ultimate Reality. the sweet sacrament. passes it over the groom’s shoulder. is served to the entire congregation. To show their support relatives help the couple as they circuit the holy book. In different parts of the world Sikhs have adopted a variety of ceremonies. The four circlings and the recitations of the Lavan constitute the Sikh marriage. However essentially the religious ceremony is simple. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 93 . REAding THE lAvAn The actual marriage ceremony begins with the opening of the Guru Granth and the reading of the Lavan. and solemn moment. no legal materials are signed or witnessed. no kisses are given.
and eating rice and grains. Her departure is called doli. Relatives and friends greet the bride at the other end. such as pouring oil on the threshold. circulating a bowl of water around the couple’s heads. Yet the joyous mood soon changes to one of sadness: the bride must leave her parents’ home. Amid farewell songs and tears the bride departs with the groom’s party to his home. The groom is in the center of the group with golden decorations around his turban and neck to which gifts of money have been attached. and then many other rites are performed. which refers to the traditional Indian marriage procession in which the bride was carried on a palanquin.doli The marriage ceremony is followed by a festive lunch. For Sikhs death does not 94 SIKHISM . so must all people depart. In modern Sikh families the groom’s family gives a wedding reception and the couple cuts the wedding cake. a covered seat atop two poles. DEaTh In Sikhism life and death are regarded as natural processes. Today the means of transportation varies from horse carts to decorated limousines. Sikh men and boys dancing at a celebration following a wedding ceremony. According to the Guru Granth just as each day that dawns must reach its end.
with young couples. when the physical. cremation also seems to be more natural. Guru Nanak himself was not concerned with whether his body would be cremated or buried or ﬂoated down the river. finite existence ends it is not viewed as a final terminating point. their children. the objective is to become part of the Ultimate Reality. or beating one’s breasts and thighs.mean an absolute end. their concern is with development here and now. The elderly are not consigned to homes for the aged. signifying the return of the fourth element to water itself. As a result. Cremated ashes and bones are immersed in running water to symbolize a return to the elements. and spiritual refinement of the individual. Since Sikhs believe that the body is made up of four elements and that during cremation it returns to the four elements. No worldly sorrows or grief should intrude on the peaceful departure. are forbidden in Sikh life. they grow old and die at home. Fire merges with the ﬁre that is lighted. External signs of grief such as weeping. and grandparents often living under one roof. parents. Thus even the youngest Sikh children become rETurNINg To ThE four ELEmENTS S ikhs cremate their dead. and the ashes and the bones (called phul. intellectual. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 95 . wailing. The Sikh ideal is to attain infinity and immortality. the earth goes to the earth. A PEACEful dEPARTuRE Sikhs believe that when a person is about to die his or her attention is drawn toward the Ultimate. the air to the air. Sikh life is intergenerational. which are quite common in northern India. so his followers adopted cremation for practical reasons. literally. “ﬂowers”) are immersed in running water. The Sikh gurus and their scripture stress the moral.
Even during one’s last journey A funeral is a rite of passage just as a on earth. . When someone dies early in life or from some unnatural cause. the Sikh is called on to marriage ceremony is. witnessing the birth of children and grandchildren—grief is muted. Following the Kirtan Sohila Ardas is bid you goodbye . The body is covered with white sheets. Kirtan Sohila. . or fire. The body is carried in a procession with musicians playing and singing. a ritual that is reminiscent of the bridegroom going to wed his bride. and as adults they accept death more matterof-factly than do many people in the West. they place the body on a platform of firewood. sing the praise of the soul. A young woman is often dressed in her bridal clothes. Death is presumed to be a stage that completes the liberation of the soul. It presents death as something all Wake up my mind.another connection between death and marriage. people demonstrate their grief. where death occurs mostly in hospitals and nursing homes. funERAl RiTuAls And BlEssings When a person dies the body is bathed and dressed in clean clothes. and then those present recite the evePraising the Eternal Reality ning hymn. and carried to the cremation ground on the shoulders of four people closest to the deceased. seeking blessing for the departed Says Nanak. and Sikhs sing praises to the Ultimate. The oil of blessing recognize and praise the Eternal is poured out in both rituals. and For all else is an ephemeral dream . karahprasad is distributed. A close relative lights the funeral pyre. offered. placed on a bier. As the funeral procession moves mourners recite passages from the Guru Granth. When the mourners reach the cremation ground. . wake up from the share and as a passage that opens people oblivion of sleep into a union with the Transcendent RealThe body that came with you will soon ity. or platform. . However when the elderly die—especially those who have lived a long and happy life. Taking karah96 SIKHISM .familiar with death. This scripReality by singing the following tural verse attempts to overcome the fear hymn found in the Guru Granth: of death. When the party returns from the creUltimate One mation ground all wash themselves.
In unison. and hospitals. O friends. They keep the memory of the deceased alive by making gifts to the needy. for after people continue to visit the family this day must come to one and all. Visitors Bless me that I unite with my Groom. the reading of the Guru Granth of a wedding to recall union with is begun by the family members. ThereRemember the Summoner. The bhog the Ultimate: ceremony takes place on the 10th day with the antam Ardas (the final Ardas) The day of my wedding is fixed. This final rite of passage is the most significant of them all. They do not —Kirtan Sohila necessarily exchange words. more From home to home these summons brilliant colors being reserved for wedare received daily dings and other festive occasions. for it represents the ultimate stage on the path toward union with the Supreme Being. black. but they sit in silence to share their grief and to commemorate their loss. pour ritual oil. O friends. Sikhs generally do not pay much attention to birthdays or wedding anniversaries. and earth colors. and to the gurdwara itself. but death anniversaries of their loved ones are important. to schools. recited on behalf of the deceased. They continue to commemorate these occasions annually through bhog ceremonies. libraries. which is normally a very joyous The Evening Hymn event. members of the dead person. wear white.prasad. Religious Life and Rites of Passage 97 . serves to declare that grief must end and normal life must return once more The evening hymn that is sung at As soon as it can be conveniently funerals is also the one sung at the end of the day and uses the symbol arranged.
wherever the Guru Granth is. A gurdwara may be a single room in a private home. and certain places have a value that comes from their association with the gurus or from their appeal to the senses. It is a day of religious observances but also a day of festivities when crowds gather to watch colorful processions and musical performances. is. The gurdwara.” For Sikhs. Important academic functions also take place on Baisakhi. literally. Whenever the Guru Granth is read. It provides large areas of open space so that people do not feel confined. Certain days are more historically significant. Overall Baisakhi is regarded as a good time for all kinds of new beginnings. As much as possible the gurdwara is designed to invite worshippers to feel the presence of the Transcendent Reality. and scholars receive awards. seen. a “door” (dwara) to ultimate enlightenment (guru). however. that space is sacred. The Khalsa community initiates new members on this birthday of the Khalsa itself. or recited.CHAPTER 7 SACRED SPACE AND ALTERED TIME ccording to the Guru Granth. A Children dressed to celebrate the festival of Baisakhi. At gurdwaras. and its outward appearance and size can vary. “Paradise is where the Ultimate Reality is praised. that time is sacred. New books are released. 98 SIKHISM . the Sikh place of worship. remembered. a new yellow Sikh flag replaces the old one.
Sacred Space and Altered Time 99 .
a simple. and doors. There are no statues or pictures that represent the Ultimate Reality in any form. or walk around it in contemplation. leading the eye toward the sky. A gurdwara has four doors. Many gurdwaras have a reflecting pool and people bathe in its waters. all members sit on large mats spread on the floor. in a large city. sit near it to pray. multistoried building. can also be seen on the gurdwara’s walls. Guru Ram Das originally built the pool in 1577 and named it Amritsar. There are no chairs or pews. triangular in shape. the Golden Temple. rustic structure in a small village. or “pool of nectar. The gurdwaras in Asia are often modeled after the most sacred of all Sikh holy places. ThE goLDEN TEmPLE Harimandir. which is yellow in color. the focus of attention. The Guru Granth rests on a platform. the Golden Temple at Amritsar in India. indicating welcome to people of all castes. Within there is no altar or special holy place. or a sumptuous. can be easily recognized. windows. and emblazoned with the emblem of the Sikh Khalsa. Any available hall or dwelling can be adapted and people often meet in private homes. Sikh ritual and ceremony took form there. Harimandir. The congregation can gather inside or outside the gurdwara—it does not really matter. surrounded by a reflecting pool. The emblem. A large courtyard within the gurdwara contributes to a feeling of openness. or towers.” When Arjan 100 SIKHISM . The Golden Temple rests on a platform in the middle of a sacred reflecting pool. Women and men sit separately by tradition. One identifying mark of a gurdwara is the flag that flies over it. is the central shrine of the Sikhs. In India a gurdwara can be easily recognized by its white domes and minarets. Even from a distance the flag. and many are of historical note and are places of pilgrimage. The temple is an example of the fundamental characteristics of Sikh art and architecture. a double-edged sword surrounded by two semicircular swords.
which grew up around it. sprinkle it on themselves. or covered porch. narrow streets of the city of Amritsar. At the southern side of the building are steps leading to the pool. several stories high. The upper half of the building is covered in gold-plated copper sheets. The pool is surrounded on four sides by a wide marble walkway.marBLE SPLENDor reﬂecting pool surrounding the GoldenTemple lies like a peaceful oasis in the midst of the crowded. They might drink the water. Sacred Space and Altered Time 101 . which in turn is enclosed by a white marble portico. or ﬁll bottles to take home to friends and relatives. with a doorway on each A side. Sikhs walking on the marble walkway surrounding the reflecting pool at the center of which sits the Golden Temple. giving the temple its name. especially the sick. Visitors descend the steps to obtain water from the pool.
worshippers descend stairs to the Golden Temple in humility. Beautiful is this spot. The place at Amritsar. once again reinforcing the Sikh principle that all faiths are different expressions of the One Ultimate Reality. Guru Arjan the replacement reader steps in and the himself installed the Guru Granth two granthis read a few words in unison. In the center is a small square pavil102 SIKHISM . From a secA Pool of “Ambrosial Waters” ond-floor balcony granthis. either side. Miran Mir. 1604. every solid surface expresses the beauty of this sacred is decorated with delicate designs. beautiful is this pool filled with ambrosial waters. One set of windows looks outJoy pervades the world. In there on August 16. sacred music plays 22 hours out of 24. the wonderful task has been The second story of the Golden Temple accomplished. all suffering ward toward the sacred pool and the town.succeeded to the guruship he had the temple built in the sacred pool. When this way recitation of the holy word never the Guru Granth was opened at stops. the holiest third floor consists of an open-air walkshrine of the Sikhs. According to historical accounts a Muslim. or readers. The temple is never silent. The ceilings and walls appropriately and auspiciously are inlaid with mirrors. In the center of the ground floor the Guru Granth rests under a jewel-studded canopy on silk and brocade cloth. Guru Arjan wanted this first Sikh shrine to be different from other places of worship. has ended. Thus instead of ascending stairs. way. forms a sort of balcony with windows on All desires have been fulfilled. ConTinuAl REAdings Both inside and out the temple is covered with beautifully intricate carvings. In addition readings of the Guru random on that day it revealed the Granth may be taking place on other levfollowing commandment: els of the temple at the same time. Before represents the highest attainment of a reader ends his or her period of reading beauty and tranquillity. dECoRATion And lAyouT Nectar ﬂows. laid the first foundation stone of the Sikh temple. take For Sikhs the Golden Temple turns reading from the holy book. while the other opens to the Guru Granth To Sikhs the scriptural verse on the floor below.
a source of physical and spiritual refreshment.Sikh pilgrims bathing in the sacred pool.” Sacred Space and Altered Time 103 . The sacred reflecting pool was built by Guru Ram Das in 1577 who gave it the name. Amritsar or ”pool of nectar.
are of major importance. The two most prized are the Sahib. Akal Takht is a mark of great respect. Sikhs regard it as the supreme seat of religious and temporal authority. It is 104 SIKHISM . and political gatherings at the Akal Takht. reserving the temple for prayer and worship. A significant number of innocent worshippers were killed. social.” at Amritsar faces the Golden Temple. Keshgarh Sahib. By that act the sixth guru took community affairs out of the Golden Temple. The sound of a kettledrum announces the ceremonial activities that take place Five Seats of Authority there. A history. He held a court of justice and many Sikhs went there to have their grievances heard and resolved. Over the centuries additions expanded the Akal Takht into a five-story building with a golden dome and intricate interior decorations. Patna displayed. or nonreligious. Large numbers of Sikhs still assemble before the Akal Takht. Guru Hargobind himself presided over important religious. THE AkAl TAkHT The Akal Takht. especially with the life of the saffron robe of honor conferred at the 10th guru. swords of Hargobind and Gobind Singh. Hazur Sahib. or “Throne of the Formless. In the morning and the evening the The five seats of temporal authority personal weapons of the Sikh gurus are for Sikhs are the Akal Takht. and Damdama Sahib. Several of Sikh leaders continue to proclaim formal these places are associated with Sikh Sikh policy from the halls of the takht. Visitors often pause to feed the birds that stop to rest there. ThE fIvE TaKHTS In addition to the Golden Temple the five takhts. Its foundation was originally laid in 1609 under the direction of Guru Hargobind.ion topped by a golden dome. and religious aspects of Sikhism. This historic building was severely damaged in June 1984 when the Indian Army fired on Sikhs assembled inside. Gobind Singh. or seats of temporal authority. In those places Sikh leaders traditionally made decisions about the secular.
Relics of Guru Gobind Singh are preserved in this shrine.given to those who render extraordinary service to the Sikh community. Lord Buddha. four arrows. The shrine. Other historically significant gurdwaras are located near Keshgarh Sahib. and she wished that she had a child of her own. a follower of Guru Nanak. in one of the old quarters of Patna. was built by Sacred Space and Altered Time 105 . Patna is also the birthplace of Gobind Singh and a shrine there commemorates his birth. Both Guru Nanak and Siddhartha Gautama. for instance. Today grain is still served in the langar at Patna Sahib in recognition of the friendship between the boy Gobind and Queen Mania. was originally the mansion of Salis Rai Johri. Eventually this building came to be known as the shrine Takht Sri Harmandir Sahib. spent his early years in Patna and many stories are told of his childhood there. One is about a queen named Mania. Gurdwara Guru ka Mahal. the son of Guru Tegh Bahadur. the central figure of the Buddhist faith. or Sikh baptism. There Takht Keshgarh Sahib is a monument to the founding of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh. The boy promised that he would be like a son to her. and a pair of his sandals are displayed along with some of his writings and those of his father. to his five beloved Sikhs. Queen Mania and the Boy Gobind Gobind Singh. who was very sad because she had no children. The shrine is constructed at the place where the 10th guru administered amrita. To show his devotion to the Sikh faith he converted his home into an inn that was free for travelers and pilgrims. are said to have visited there. She saw little Gobind. Each year Sikhs reenact the founding of the Khalsa in Anandpur. They became friends and Mania gave him grain. Guru Tegh Bahadur stayed there when he visited Patna. which are collected into a book. who was only four years old at the time. PATnA sAHiB The city of Patna is located 500 miles east of Delhi on the Ganges River. Later a magnificent house was built above the inn. kEsHgARH sAHiB The town of Anandpur—literally the “town of joy” (anand)—is located in the foothills of the Himalayas in the Shivalik valley of northern India. His sword.
106 SIKHISM . northern India. marks the place where Guru Gobind Singh founded the Khalsa and is a place of pilgrimage for many Sikhs.The Keshgarh Sahib at Anandpur.
as his home. his follower Jaita carried the guru’s head to Anandpur. and the Gurdwara Sisganj (sis means “head”) was built there to commemorate the event. the grandsons of Tegh Bahadur. sRi HAZuR sAHiB Takht Sri Hazur Sahib in south central India is the site of the death of the 10th guru. both its architecture and its interior decoration are modeled after the Golden Temple. and liked the place so much that he stayed for more than nine months. On the first floor recitations from the Guru Granth take place continually. and five golden swords. The gurdwara’s treasury contains several of Guru Gobind Singh’s possessions. Guru Gobind Singh’s two sons. Throughout the year thousands of Sikh devotees visit this historical shrine on the banks of the Godavari River. The horse is led out for processions on special occasions. This gurdwara with its tranquil pool is sacred to the memory of Gobind Singh. Faith in the Khalsa On a pillar at Takht Damdama Sahib are inscribed the words of Guru Gobind Singh expressing his firm faith in the Khalsa: To the Khalsa belongs all My home. Gobind Singh. His mirror. Guru Tegh Bahadur was beheaded under the Mughal rule in Delhi in 1675. Bhai Dalla. a great Sikh king. day and night.the ninth guru. Soon after. my body. The gurdwara also stables and cares for a horse that is said to be descended from the horse ridden by Guru Gobind Singh during his lifetime. dAmdAmA sAHiB Damdama Sahib is situated near Bhatinda in the Punjab just south of Amritsar. Maharaja Ranjit Singh. two bows. and sword are displayed there. It is located in Nanded in the state of Maharashtra. It is a two-story gurdwara. Besides jewelry and clothes there are his golden kirpan. The shrine in Delhi that marks the place of Guru Tegh Bahadur’s martyrdom is also known as Gurdwara Sisganj. directed its construction between 1832 and 1837. The guru went there on the invitation of a devoted follower. Tegh Bahadur. and all that I possess. where it was burned to ash. were born there. gun. a steel shield studded with gems. Sacred Space and Altered Time 107 .
instead they have continuous readings (akhandpaths) recited on their behalf. but for Sikhs it is charged with historical significance. SaCrED TImES Sikhs try to bring their faith into their lives at all times. These Sikh centers of faith from Damdama Sahib. They do not view one time as being more sacred than another. Long ago 108 SIKHISM . two gurdwaras—Dukhniwaran Sahib in the city of Patiala and Bahadur Garh on its outskirts— are reminders of the ninth guru’s visit. the Middle in the old fort in Bhatinda stands at East. the Sikhs value many other gurdwaras. Whenever they return to India The gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) Sikhs from America. The gurdwara at the top of the fort is small and simple. intellectually. spiritually. Sikhs travel there from all over the world. Some do not go to the takhts in person. It was even called the Guru’s Kashi. HisToRiC sHRinEs And PilgRimAgE Besides the Golden Temple and the five takhts. Some make annual pilgrimages. passing (1675–1708) stayed during a visit on the tradition. Such sacred places bring the past to life Bhatinda Fort for Sikhs. In the former princely state of Patiala. Europe. for the kitchen. There Bhai Mani Singh prepared the final version of the Guru Granth under the 10th guru’s direction. Visitors believe that a dip in the pool of Gurdwara Dukhniwaran Sahib will cure suffering—dukhniwaran literally means “the end of suffering” (dukh). after a famous center for Sanskritic and Hindu studies. The gurdwara became known as a seat of Sikh learning.At Damdama Sahib Guru Gobind Singh pursued his literary work. and politically. 1250). and the Far East try to visit their histhe place where Guru Gobind Singh torical shrines with their children. and for silk coverings for the holy book. They also send money for the readers. The birthplaces of the gurus and other sites also have special historical meaning. All Sikhs try to visit the five takhts at least once in their lifetime. was imprisoned before her execution. others go only for special occasions. the first woman ruler of India. It was at this and history continue to inspire the Sikhs fort that Empress Razia Sultana (ca. north of Delhi.
Guru Nanak rejected the Indian custom of depending on astrology, the study of the heavenly bodies, to determine “good” days. “We remain busy counting and determining auspicious days,” he said, “but we do not know that the Ultimate Reality is above and beyond such considerations.” However certain days of the month and of the year have an added element of festivity. The Sikhs inherited the ancient Indian lunar calendar based on the phases of the moon, so the new moon and the full moon are special for them. They incorporated the traditional Indian festivals into their year and gave them new meaning. They also added celebrations commemorating major events in Sikh history. Both the eternally returning seasons and the important and historic moments in Sikhism are celebrated with exuberance every year.
SanGrand And maSia
In Western countries many Sikhs have adopted the custom of worshipping together on Sundays, but the opening, reading, and closing of the Guru Granth go on every day in people’s homes and in the gurdwaras. Gurdwaras are open all the time and people come and go as they wish. Sikhs do not have a weekly holy day equivalent to the Jewish or Christian Sabbath. They do, however, regard the monthly sangrand and masia as special. Sangrand is the first day of the month according to the Indian solar calendar. On this day Sikhs may add hopes and wishes for the coming weeks to their daily prayers. Many who do not regularly go to the gurdwara do so on this occasion. They pray for prosperity, health, and peace throughout the month. In the village gurdwaras warm karahprasad replaces the sugar puffs more commonly used for the sacrament. Masia is the darkest night of the month. Many Sikhs think it is an especially good time for bathing in the holy pool of the gurdwara. The pool at Dukhniwaran Sahib in Patiala, for instance, is usually filled with devotees from all over the region. This tradition began at Tarn Taran near Amritsar and continues to be observed with great festival spirit. Around 10 at night a procesSacred Space and Altered Time
sion carries the Guru Granth from the Akal Takht to the gurdwara in Tam Taran. Sikh followers join in on the way, reciting hymns from the scripture. En route people serve simple meals and sweet snacks. The procession reaches the shrine at Tarn Taran in the early hours of the morning and everyone takes a dip in the holy pool. Sikhs feel that sangrand and masia celebrations help them to stay in harmony with the natural rhythms of the month.
Baisakhi is the first day of Baisakh, a month that is approximately equivalent to the month of April. Hindus in India traditionally celebrated this day at Hardwar, where the holy Ganges enters the plains. Guru Arjan began the Sikh tradition of Baisakhi celebrations at the Golden Temple. However even before that time Sikhs assembled during the month of harvest to thank the Ultimate and listen to the teachings of their gurus. In 1699 Guru Gobind Singh created the Khalsa on Baisakhi Day. For Sikhs this added special importance to the New Year celebration. Sikhs all over the world celebrate Baisakhi as a social, political, and religious occasion. The city of Amritsar, however, is a focal point in this annual event. Sikhs travel great distances to visit Harimandir, the Golden Temple, on this day. Singers and musicians perform throughout the day. The entire complex swarms with Sikh devotees bathing in the waters of the huge reflecting pool; listening to speakers and readers; preparing and consuming langar, the community meal that follows a service; making special offerings in the temple itself; and reverently circling the temple on the walkway as they contemplate and meditate. The scene outside the Golden Temple complex is lively as well. For the large farming element in India Baisakhi is the last day to relax before the beginning of the harvest, so people make the most of it. They hold a large animal fair at which they buy and sell goats, buffaloes, camels, and other livestock. Sikhs also recall the Baisakhi festival of 1919. On that date, fearing conspiracy, the British rulers had forbidden the people to gather. However many, including a large number of Sikhs, did
Young members of the Khalsa, wearing the five Ks, taking part in a procession to celebrate the Birthday of Guru Nanak in the city of Anandpur. The boys are wearing turbans to cover their uncut hair (under the turban, they will be wearing a kanga to keep their hair in place). They are wearing kara, a steel bangle, on their wrists and they are holding a kirpan, the sword. Under their robes, they will be wearing kacchera, short trousers to signify readiness to ride into battle.
Sacred Space and Altered Time
the Sikh sacred music. perform kirtan. the goddess of wealth and prosperity.” For Hindus it is a major festival. Furthermore one condition. divAli Around the time of Christmas and Hanukkah in the West people in India celebrate Divali. Fireworks Guru Gobind’s two eldest sons and two of light the night sky. which literally means “a string of lights. It also commemorates the return of King Rama and Queen Sita to their kingdom of Ayodhya after 14 years of exile. after passageway without losing hold of the examining the case the emperor decided guru’s garments. According of Emperor Jahangir for nonpayment of to tradition the emperor agreed. Guru Harguru refused to leave unless his Hindu gobind was falsely imprisoned by officers companions were set free also. all 52 princes walked to freedom. Only those princes could his raising of an army had put him under leave who could pass through a narrow suspicion of treason. The impossiAt the Golden Temple Sikhs celebrate ble was made possible: holding on to the Divali for three days. welcoming the visit of the Lakshmi. the 10th guru. long tassels hanging from it. However. Today political rallies take place at Jallianvala Bagh. Candles and lanterns float forces with the Mughal emperor. The British fired on them and many hundreds. where bullet holes from the massacre still scar the walls. and joined ing building. died. however. earthenware oil lamps illuminate the cenThese same princes later betrayed the tral shrine. the walkways. Singers and musicians the ﬁve beloved Khalsa. Many who were not shot died trying to escape by jumping into deep wells. but on fines imposed on his father. and the adjoinGuru Gobind.gather in a small area near the Golden Temple called Jallianvala Bagh. Divali is a shortened form of the word deepavali. Reflections of battles that followed were responsible for the temple lights merge with the floating a massacre that resulted in the deaths of lamps in a shimmering display. and these are still there as a terrible reminder. possibly over a thousand. T 112 SIKHISM . Electric lights and tassels. In ThE rELEaSE of guru Sikhism. Not to be outdone the guru ordered a cloak for himself made with to release the guru. it is a reminder of the hargoBIND SINgh time when their sixth guru returned to here were 52 Hindu princes in prison Amritsar after the Mughal rulers released with Guru Hargobind Singh and the him from the fort of Gwalior. The in the surrounding pool.
Fireworks. Homes are also decorated with lanterns and candles and gifts exchanged between friends and family. rice. For the Sikhs at this time. There are competitions to see whose kite will fly highest. and Jews around the world. and flour. the golden fans. is one which simply means “spring. Sikhs offer gifts of cash. karahprasad. Crowds come to view the Golden Temple’s collection of precious jewels and to marvel at the golden gates. but part of the fun is trying to sabotage other kites. The children attach bits of glass to their kites and try to cut their opponents’ kite strings by flying across them. the lights symbolize peace and joy. lamps. as for Hindus. and pilgrimage to the Golden Temple are all part of joyful Divali celebrations which last for three days. Speakers deliver lectures and recite heroic ballads. BAsAnT The festival Basant. Christians. Sacred Space and Altered Time 113 . the pearl tassels. music. butter.” During the time when the yellow mustard blooms in the Punjabi fields people wear yellow and eat yellow rice. the golden canopy with its jeweled peacock. flowers. milk. During Divali people whitewash and paint their homes and decorate them with earthenware lamps and candles. and the fly whisk made from millions of hairlike sandalwood fibers. Families and friends exchange gifts and candy. Basant is a colorful and festive time. In the villages of India the rooftops are full of youngsters flying kites.
This three-day festival marks spring but there are also displays and contests of horsemanship. Lord Krishna. and athletic competitions. and blues. athletics. splashed. Sikhs displaying martial arts skills at the festival of Hola Mohalla in Anandpur. Hola Mohalla had a more serious purpose. and archery as well as mock battles and military exercises. The guru also encouraged competitions in music and poetry. and shopping districts is one of vibrant color and merrymaking. Friends and strangers alike are sprayed. discussions. greens. Sikhs still celebrate the festival annually at Anandpur. Although held at the same time as Holi. The scene in parks. wrestling. streets. Guru Gobind Singh gave this traditional spring festival a Sikh character. In Anandpur he initiated the Hola Mohalla.hoLa mohaLLa H oli is a traditional spring festival of the Hindus. What took place were contests in horsemanship. and smeared with yellows. They hold a large fair with singing. and military exercises. The festival occurs just as winter mellows into spring. a three-day festival during which Sikhs trained as soldiers. reds. During the Holi celebration people throw brightly colored paint and dye on one another. Punjab. 114 SIKHISM . It celebrates the playful presence of the god.
GurpurabS Gurpurabs are Sikh anniversaries. In turn the brother gives his sister a gift of money. In August Sikhs celebrate the installation of the Guru Granth in the Golden Temple. After the new year begins in April. and the brother promises to help and protect his sister whether she is single or married. clothes. the first event in the Sikh calendar is the martyrdom of Guru Arjan. A rakhri is a bright band that a sister ties around her brother’s right wrist as she puts candy in his mouth. The sister prays for the long life and prosperity of her brother. or jewelry. Many Sikh families say Ardas. They may distribute karahprasad afterward. As winter comes and Divali approaches ThE fESTIvaLS of SIkhISm April 13 April May May/June June July October/November November November/December December/January March Baisakhi Birthday of Guru Tegh Bahadur Birthday of Guru Arjan Birthday of Guru Angad Birthday of Guru Amar Das Martyrdom of Guru Amar Arjan Birthday of Guru Hargobind Birthday of Guru Har Krishan Divali Birthday of Guru Nanak Martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur Birthday of Guru Gobind Singh Hola Mohalla Sacred Space and Altered Time 115 . and the martyrdom of Sikh heroes are remembered annually. This brief ritual symbolizes the bond between brother and sister. important historical events. before the tying of the rakhri. This falls in the month of Jaith. which corresponds to May–June in the Western calendar. The birth dates of gurus. the basic prayer in which Sikhs remember their 10 gurus and the Guru Granth.rakhri The festival of Rakhri comes in mid-August.
They invite musicians and lecturers from India and hold lavish langars and celebrations. It is preceded by the day of the martyrdom of Guru Tegh Bahadur. Hong Kong. Toronto. They may organize plays. The martyrdom of the 10th guru’s young sons also falls during December. GuRPuRaBS IN ThE uNITED STaTES aND CaNaDa S ikhs in places such as London. They present seminars organized around Sikh themes in which both Sikhs and non-Sikhs may participate. poetry readings.Sikhs celebrate the birthdays of the first and the 10th gurus. and Washington. San Francisco. and performances of folk music from their heritage. 116 SIKHISM . New York. This event is followed by Guru Gobind Singh’s birthday in December. D. also celebrate the gurpurabs.C. only a month apart. It is celebrated as the origin of the Sikh faith. Sikhs celebrating a gurpurab with a parade and community celebrations in New York City. Guru Nanak’s birthday falls in November.. Often they combine religious ceremonies with intellectual and cultural events.
Rather they merge into the singular experience of the sacred that is beyond all space and time. a welcome refreshment in a hot month. The two boys held to their Sikh faith and died heroes. Sikhs also recall the martyrdom of Guru Gobind Singh’s young sons in a special way. For the Sikhs sacred space and sacred time are not two different or separate things. on the anniversary of Guru Arjan’s martyrdom. Sikh scholars deliver lectures. Zorowar Singh and Fateh Singh were bricked up behind a wall by rulers who wanted them to convert to Islam. They cover their heads and remove their shoes to show homage to the holy book. Wherever the procession goes people come out of their homes to see it. and vegetables. and everyone shares enthusiastically in preparing and enjoying langar. People also enjoy exhibits of Sikh treasures at shrines such as the Golden Temple. Sikhs serve cold milk in water. Sikhs recite scriptural hymns and serve langar. Special customs are related to certain gurpurabs. grain.During the various gurpurabs a float decorated with flowers carries the Guru Granth in a procession through the city or village. Arjan was tortured to death by being dipped in hot oil and sand and then thrown into cold waters. Sacred Space and Altered Time 117 . whether participants celebrate them by praying in a gurdwara or by simply participating in the festival atmosphere. Such occasions help to deepen and enrich the Sikh experience. sACREd sPACE And TimE These festivals enable Sikhs to share in their heritage and keep the foundations of the community strong and lively. Millions gather each December in the Sirhind area of the Punjab to honor their memory. and uninterrupted readings of the Guru Granth take place followed by bhog ceremonies in which worshippers say prayers and receive karahprasad. milk. To commemorate gurpurabs people gather in the gurdwaras. Farmers bring out wheat.
Within the Sikh faith men and women are regarded as equal and women can lead the congregation in prayer. It is through woman that order is maintained. of woman conceived. a woman is sought for. women have held an important place. Then why call her inferior from whom all great ones are born? —From the Guru Granth Sikh women and children gathered together during a marriage ceremony. women sit separately from men in the gurdwara.CHAPTER 8 WOMEN AND SIKHISM rom the beginning of Sikh tradition. When a woman dies. The inferior status of women. however. By tradition. Woman we befriend. Sikh history holds stories of the many women who helped in many ways to shape the faith. To woman engaged. Women have been active and central subjects in Sikh history and they are remembered in prayer and song along with their male counterparts. to woman married. by woman do civilizations continue. read the Guru Granth Sahib in the gurdwara and recite the sacred hymns. Nanak declared: Of woman are we born. Until Guru Nanak’s time women in Indian society had long played a subordinate role. did not fit into the guru’s vision of total equality for all people under the Universal Reality. 118 SIKHISM F .
Women and Sikhism 119 .
They dismissed the Islamic pracexpressed the Ultimate in feminine tice of purdah. thought to be less meaning “light. his mother Tripta. the rejected the custom of female infanticide. WomEN IN SIkh hISTory Although little is known about the women in Guru Nanak’s life—his sister Nanaki. in which a widow had to Guru Granth affirms: “It itself is man. And they Ultimate Reality within everyone. established procedures that would ensure the participation of men and women in organizing and administering Sikh communities. In Sikhism. women’s bodies are considered whole and strong because of their function in giving birth. Women are the equals of men. The custom of suttee. To identify the spark of their faces and bodies in public. were put to death. but in general Sikhs make their own spiritual journeys guided by the Guru Granth. Both can officiate at any ceremony. gurus used the feminine noun joti.” The Sikh gurus mation. The third guru. as Sikhs consider members of both sexes equally endowed with moral and spiritual faculties. as “polluted.” The insubstantial valuable than boys. In some branches of Sikhism the custom of turning to a guru for spiritual guidance has survived. and his wife Sulakh120 SIKHISM . Both men and women can read the Guru Granth. They spoke out against the Hindu The Ultimate Reality of Sikhism includes male and female alike. for a part of each month and after childbirth. These leaders may be either women or men. Both can recite kirtan. They may be barred from religious services during these times and required to undergo ritual cleansing before they can participate again. however. Amar Das. Joti—the Divine Spark WomEN IN ThE SIkh CommuNITy To lead in worship. image of light helps to make both In some traditions women are regarded male and female Sikhs aware of the Ultimate within themselves. in which newborn girls. or congregation. whereby women had to veil imagery.The early gurus repudiated Indian customs that denied women an equal place in society. sacrifice her own life at her husband’s creIt itself is woman.” or unclean. Sikhs choose people from within their sangat. the sacred hymns.
Other Sikh women. BiBi BHAni Bibi Bhani was the daughter of the third guru. When Nanaki married and left home her brother went to live with her and her new family. Amar Das. Guru Ram Das. for the feelings of affection and hospitality that she brought to the institution of langar. The Guru Granth praises her warmth and generosity. the Women and Sikhism 121 . who died in 1582. and the boy was named for her. the second guru. She was the first to recognize his special gifts. Sikhs remember this outgoing woman. Sikhs also remember her as a wise adviser to her sons on spiritual and social matters.ni—many Sikhs believe that Nanak’s message regarding equality of the sexes and his rejection of customs that were harmful to women were signs of their influence on him. Of special importance was Nanaki. Punjab. Many clues suggest that she and her brother were very close. and became the mother of Guru Arjan. to watch a festival parade to commemorate the birthday of Guru Nanak. with Mata Khivi supplying a delicious rice pudding. mATA kHivi Mata Khivi was the wife of Angad. She was five years older than Nanak. Sikh women and children gathered on the steps of their house in Anandpur. A few are described below. She later married her father’s successor. Under her liberal direction it became not just a symbolic meal but a real feast. For her contributions to the tradition of langar Mata Khivi is described in the Guru Granth as “a thickly leafed tree” that brings shade and comfort to weary travelers. and when others thought that Nanak had drowned in the River Bein Nanaki remained convinced that he was an immortal soul. have been important to the Sikh faith. too.
Guru Arjan’s poetry contains a wealth of feminine images as if to underscore the importance of his mother’s voice in his life. Her husband and two other grandsons also died as martyrs for the Sikh faith. She was imprisoned in Sirhind with her two younger grandchildren. she rallied people who had fled that town and led them back to fight for Guru Gobind Singh. 1705. Sikhs remember Bibi Bhani as a strong woman with immense moral fervor. A monument to her memory stands at Hazur Sahib. and mother of gurus she had a profound influence. 1705. She herself took part in the battle at Muktsar on December 29. the first Sikh emperor. and all three died there as martyrs to the Sikh faith. During wartime. When he assumed the throne he was only 19. mATA gujRi Mata Gujri was born in 1627 and became the wife of Guru Tegh Bahadur. whose counsel enabled him to unify the Punjab and create a Sikh state. however. a fitting monument to her life. She possessed great courage on the battlefield. mAi BHAgo Mai Bhago was a courageous woman from the Amritsar district. Sikhs remember her especially for strengthening the faith of the young boys. The shrine of Joti Saroop marks the site where Mata Gujri was cremated on December 13. In her memory Guru Arjan had a well built that provided water for refreshment and for agriculture. The best part of her triumph. who compiled the Guru Granth. where she displayed courage and skill. Bibi Bhani died in Taran Taran in 1598. who were sealed alive behind a brick wall and chose to die there rather than renounce Sikhism. The Sikh poet Bhai Vir Singh calls her a luminous star that provides light to all. 122 SIKHISM . As the daughter. and he turned to his mother-in-law. sAdA kAuR Sada Kaur was the mother-in-law of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. when a long siege had brought hardship to Anandpur. wife.fifth guru. Mai Bhago died in 1708.
who are equally important in the Khalsa family. stirred the water of the ﬁrst Khalsa initiation ceremony with his sword. mAHARAni jindAn Maharani Jindan was born in 1817. Sada Kaur also funded and administered Sikh institutions of learning. and bore him a Women and Sikhism 123 . Under her direction and guidance Ranjit Singh was able to take control of the capital at Lahore without bloodshed. added the sugar to the steel bowl. the 10th guru. She died in Amritsar in 1832. lay in peaceful victory. toward the end of his life.maTa kaur hen Guru Gobind Singh. the wife of Guru Gobind Singh at the first Khalsa initiation. From that day on Khalsa members have traced W their historical and spiritual beginnings to Guru Gobind Singh and Mata Sahib Kaur. The Khalsa members declare themselves to be the direct descendants of these two spiritual parents. Mata Sahib Kaur. his wife. Mata Sahib Kaur died in 1735. It was she who brought an element of celestial sweetness to the ritual. Mata Sahib Kaur. She was married to Maharaja Ranjit Singh in 1835.
Bhai Vir Singh began to write this novel when he was a young man—a student in high school.son. Sundari—dEdiCATion And dARing Sundari. Following an uprising in which the British put down the Khalsa. captured the Sikh imagination as no other work of fiction ever had. intellectual. Jindan. Dilip Singh. the creations of Bhai Vir Singh (1872–1957). The book has inspired many people to be initiated into the Khalsa. or caretaker ruler. Her young son was taken to England and converted to Christianity. She later went to England and convinced her son to return to Sikhism. and charity. daring. In this fast-paced adventure the young woman who is the main character is kidnapped by the Mughals. then in power in India. the Sikhs’ traditional enemies. in 1837. Maharani Jindan was famous for her keen intelligence. and spiritual strength.1863. and novelist. The British. Two fictional heroines have been special favorites among the Sikh reading public—Sundari and Rani Raj Kaur. The Maharani continued to write powerful letters from prison. Within the Khalsa she lives according to the teachings of the guru and embodies the Sikh ideal. with its vigorous action and high principles. Dilip Singh’s mother. is the first novel in the Punjabi language and still the most acclaimed and widely read of all Sikh popular literature. became regent. poet. a Sikh scholar. She died in England on August 1. first published about a hundred years ago. WomEN aND SIkh LITEraTurE Sikh literature contains women characters who display physical. she joins the Khalsa and takes the name Sundari. 124 SIKHISM . of the Sikh Empire. The story of Sundari. found her a constant threat. Rescued by a brother who has become a Sikh. Generations of Punjabi readers have been touched by Sundari’s qualities of dedication. The Maharaja died in 1839 and four years later six-year-old Dilip Singh succeeded him as leader of the Sikhs in the Punjab. Jindan was accused of conspiracy and imprisoned.
At the same time she moves in her daily life from a state of weakness and inaction to one of full participation in affairs of the world. Rana Surat Singh. and political life.rana Surat SinGh—THE jouRnEy of A wisE RulER Another of Bhai Vir Singh’s works. Her spiritual experience gives her a new sense of self and a new orientation in the world. provide the framework for the book. the first prayer of the Guru Granth. For Sikhs the spiritual ascent has practical results. published in 1905. husband and wife—are essential to the human condition. The intimate relationships of the world—mother and daughter. At the end of the book Rani Raj Kaur assumes the political duties of her state and presides as a strong and wise ruler. uniTy wiTH THE univERsE From Rani Raj Kaur’s story Sikhs take the message that the Sikh spiritual experience—the love for Ultimate Reality and the ascent into the sacred—is grounded in the love of fellow beings. completely changing her domestic. social. The five stages of spiritual ascension enumerated in the Jap. eventually realizing the highest stage of spiritual awareness. Women and Sikhism 125 . makes a journey of faith. It helps them to recognize the fundamental unity of people and the universe. Rani Raj Kaur. sister and sister. gave Sikhs a second great fictional heroine. These relationships exist through the relationship of humans to the Ultimate Reality. In this epic the heroine.
SIKH TRADITION AND MODERN CULTURE
very religious tradition must face the demands of contemporary life if it is to survive and flourish. Sikhism has always encouraged its followers to participate fully in the political, social, and cultural climate in which they live. As Sikhism enters the new millennium it faces new challenges and opportunities in India and in the West.
ThE rISE of ThE SIkh EmPIrE
After the death of the 10th Guru Gobind Singh in 1708 leadership fell to the Khalsa under Banda Singh Bahadur. For seven years he triumphed militarily over the Mughals, but was eventually captured, brutally tortured, and executed in 1716. With Banda’s death the Khalsa withdrew to the hills in small bands. Decades of Mughal repression followed. However the Mughal Empire, once believed to be the greatest on earth, was steadily weakening due to invasions from Persia and then Afghanistan. In 1761 the Khalsa reestablished themselves as rulers over the region. Yet the
Khalsa Sikh soldiers taking part in a procession in Anandpur to celebrate Hola Mohalla. The soldiers display their traditioinal military skills and martial arts during the celebrations to honor Guru Gobind Singh.
Sikh Tradition and Modern Culture
Khalsa remained unstable, with bloody infighting characterizing the rest of the 18th century. Stability would come from a new leader, Ranjit Singh. With the guidance of his mother-in-law, Sada Kaur, this teenage leader of a Khalsa band seized power peacefully in the city of Lahore in 1799. Over the next two years he carefully consolidated his strength, integrating 12 warrior Sikh bands into a sovereign state. On the day of Baisakhi, 1801, the Sikhs crowned him maharaja, or ruler king, of the Punjab. Short of stature, dressed in white with the famous 240-carat Koh-i-noor (“mountain of light”) diamond around his arm, and usually mounted on a horse, Ranjit Singh was a striking figure. Though illiterate, the “Lion of the Punjab” had the wisdom to surround himself with able servants from many countries. The maharaja was a skilled diplomat known for his prudence and deft ability to handle the increasingly powerful British, the Afghans, and the surrounding Indian princes. Under his reign culture and religion flourished. The first dictionary and grammar of the Punjabi language were printed, new gurdwaras were built and renovated, and many schools of North Indian painting flourished. By the time of his death in 1839 the Sikh Empire included Kangra, Multan, Kashmir, Derajat, Peshawar, Ladakh, and even Kabul.
ThE DECLINE of ThE SIkh EmPIrE
Despite his personal charisma and military and diplomatic skills, Ranjit Singh failed to build a foundation that would secure the Sikh Empire after his death. Court intrigue claimed the lives of one son after another as family members battled one another in the hopes of ascending the throne. Ranjit Singh’s leadership differed starkly with his sons’ adoption of assassination and revenge. These destructive means of achieving power encouraged the repercussions that would soon destroy the young Sikh Empire. For while one son destroyed the next, the British were carefully planning to take over the entire region. In 1845 the British set out to destroy the Sikh Empire. After four battles the Khalsa was defeated. It was an outcome the Sikhs
Many Sikhs gave literature and history and used his studies to appraise his own Sikh heritage in a modup Sikh practices and adopted those of the ern light. Hindus. ularly the Punjabi classic Sundari. followed by the Lahore Saba in 1879. biographer of the gurus. Because of the dramatic reduction in the Sikh population of Pakistan after Partition. Vir Singh’s works of ﬁction. many gurdwaras are no longer used and are in disrepair. A proliﬁc poet. and defender of roughly estimated to number 10 million the faith. writer. revival of Sikhism. The time was century. scholar. The recipient of a WestUnder British domination Sikh morale ern education. Maharaja Dalip Singh was forced to leave Punjab. Vir Singh studied English reached its lowest point. By the census of 1868 the Sikhs. the British announced the rESurgENCE IN ThE 20Th CENTury complete annexation of Punjab.Border security controls at the Wagah border crossing between India and Pakistan about 17 miles (27 kilometers) from Amritsar. Three years later they rose up against the British and were victorious in their first clash. the goals of the reform movement. had dwindled to a sible for Sikhism’s resurgence in the 20th little more than a million. would not accept. grew up close to the movethe British now controlled most of the ment and devoted his entire life to the Indian subcontinent. and the tangible ways of living the faith in the modern world. the son of a Singh Saba His father’s vast Empire was no more and founder. Despite valiant efforts they finally met with defeat in the Battle of Gujrat. However the British armaments greatly outnumbered the Sikhs’. 1849. he is the person most responin Ranjit Singh’s time. On March 30. helped B ThE SINgh SaBa aND BhaI vIr SINgh In 1873 the first Singh Saba (Council) was formed in Amritsar. particripe for reform. Sikh Tradition and Modern Culture 129 . Others were subse- to explain the plight of the Sikh community. Sikhs in Pakistan and beyond are trying to raise funds to restore these important historic gurdwaras. hai Vir Singh.
un-Sikh practices such as worship of local gods. but also to move the panth. but movements of independence from the colonial powers. Rioting both preceded and followed the announcement 130 SIKHISM . After struggling for more than half a century India gained its independence on August 15. Simultaneously many social and religious institutions were reformed. were proscribed. to recover Sikh identity. and gurdwaras. for the line separating the new countries ran straight through Punjab The line of partition thus separated families. women’s fasting for their husband’s welfare. or community. However it came at a high price. separate nation. Of course areas were not always so easily divisible. businesses. So when partition came at the time of independence millions were forced to leave their homes and head either east or west to their new nation. and printing presses were established to shape the minds and hearts of young Sikhs. Schools. Ultimately the fear of a Hindu domination in an independent India led to the creation of Pakistan. colleges.quently founded throughout Punjab. INDIaN INDEPENDENCE aND ParTITIoN The modern world saw not merely the birth of colonialism. into the future. book clubs. Their mission was to return to the original message of the early gurus. Increasingly Muslims believed that their interests would be best served by founding a new. The areas of the country with the greatest number of Muslims would constitute Pakistan. The Sikhs were caught in the middle. provides one of the noblest yet tragic stories of a nation’s fight for freedom. Through the Singh Sabas and their related institutions. or self-rule. Partition required that British India be divided into two new nations. and the practice of astrology. educational societies. Hindu and Muslim relations worsened. while the areas with the most Hindus would become India. 1947. India’s quest for swaraj. vocations. Thousands of Indians dedicated themselves to the dream of an independent nation stretching from Kashmir in the north to Kanyakumari in the south. As the “Quit India” struggle had progressed in the 1920s and 1930s.
cultural. the one most affected by the division of its Punjabi homeland. was ignored when the new boundaries were being determined. racial. This event represents the darkest chapter in modern Sikh history. SIkhISm ToDay Partition did not end communal tensions in India.of the new national boundaries. administering affairs from the Indian capital in New Delhi. and ethnic groups. becoming India’s new refugees as they left their homes in what was now the new state of Pakistan to seek a safer and more secure home in India. Perhaps one of partition’s saddest ironies is that the Sikh community. India remains a democratic experiment. Much like the United States. continuing government repression added to secessionist agitation. While the separatists did not initially enjoy the support of most Sikhs. Hundreds of thousands of Sikhs were killed and millions of Punjabis were reduced to poverty. The call for greater state of self-government was unwisely treated as a secessionist movement by the central government. Shortly after the attack on the Golden Temple Sikh Tradition and Modern Culture 131 . These and other conditions bred dissatisfaction and created pressure for home rule in Punjab beginning in the 1960s. Thousands of innocent Sikh civilians were killed and the Akal Takht was destroyed. The powers in New Delhi tended to rule the panth inflexibly. In 1983 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s government dismantled the state government. ATTACk on THE goldEn TEmPlE Events reached a climax in 1984 when the Indian army fired on a group of separatists headquartered in the Golden Temple. Although Sikhs created one of India’s most prosperous states and comprise a sizable portion of India’s professional and business people. whose creation required uniting hundreds of factions representing different religious. they have not always been treated well by the Indian government. The result was actually the strengthening of separatists who called for an independent Sikh nation known as Khalistan.
although there are also sizable communities in Malaysia and Kenya. ATTEmPTs To diffusE TEnsions Rajiv Gandhi. where thousands of innocent pilgrims were slaughtered. The United States. or community. Hopes of a settlement or reconciliation were soon dashed when the Sikh signer of the Punjab Accord was assassinated. Eager to defuse tensions. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi was assassinated by her two Sikh bodyguards. including Duk Navaran Shab in Patala. The chief minister of Punjab now makes frequent visits to the United States and United Kingdom to enlist the ﬁnancial support of successful American and British Sikhs and other nonresident Indians.000 in the San Francisco Bay area. Rajiv Gandhi’s administration backed away from the agreement. and to recognize finally the Sikh religion in the Indian constitution. Reprisals throughout North India against innocent Sikhs quickly followed. state with the largest Sikh community. Such projects reﬂect both the new willingness of India’s central and state governments to tap into the resources of Indians around the globe. E and 11 other main gurdwaras. and the United Kingdom are the countries with the largest Sikh populations outside India. the quality of their roads. the prime minister signed an agreement with moderate Sikhs.S. to give Sikhs more economic and political power. These trips are yielding agreements for Punjabi development projects worth billions of dollars. recognized the danger of continued hostilities between Sikhs and Hindus.000 Sikhs live there with more than 50. It is estimated that in Delhi alone well over 3. Antagonism between Sikhs and Hindus had reached its apex in 1985. Canada. promising to restore elections. Indira Gandhi’s son and successor as prime minister. Sikhs are still dedicated to obtaining justice in India. and that separatists reflected a minority within the entire Sikh population. and the momentum toward reconciliation was well and truly lost. some 250. and the health of Punjab’s economy. and the desire of successful nonresident Indians to improve the land of their birth. Few of the perpetrators were brought to justice and it is widely believed that government and police officials allowed the violence to occur. but they are also concerned about schools for their children.000 people were killed during the four terrifying days following the assassination. 132 SIKHISM . World Sikhs California is the U. leaving the main political party leaderless.groWTh aND INTErNaTIoNaL ParTNErShIPS conomic growth in India has also changed the priorities of the panth.
the Sikh political party. In 1996. This fear. In 1998 their alliance swept the Lok Sabha seats in Punjab. The Congress defeat came at the same time that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) was gaining popularity. Economic liberalization is having a profound impact on India and thus on the Sikh community. many Sikhs questioned an alliance with the Hindu nationalists. The alliance was formed shortly after the 1996 election.Few could have predicted the way in which tensions would be eased between the Sikhs and the Indian government even two decades ago. In a relatively short time Sikh political fortunes had changed dramatically. after more than four decades in power. For just as Rajiv Gandhi’s administration was abandoning the Punjab Accord. One year later the Shiromani Akali Dal won Punjab’s state assembly elections with the help of the BJP. Dedicated to the vision of India as a uniquely Hindu nation. India’s lower house of parliament. also benefited at the Congress Party’s expense. The Shiromani Akali Dal. Both the BJP and the Shiromani Akali Dal quickly realized that an alliance promised to benefit both parties: the BJP could keep its majority in the Lok Sabha and the Shiromani Akali Dal could continue its rise to dominance in Punjab within the state and central governments. Congress had led India to independence but it was now widely perceived as corrupt and ineffective. As part of the central government’s embrace of capitalism the state and central governments began seeking new trade and business partnerships outside the country. PoliTiCAl CHAngEs The 1990s brought significant political changes to India. the BJP won a slim majority in the Lok Sabha in the 1996 election. However. the alliance’s Sikh Tradition and Modern Culture 133 . fearing a return to the 1984 hostilities. it was also moving India in a new economic direction. with its members winning a majority of the Punjab seats in the Lok Sabha. the Congress Party was defeated in the Lok Sabha. A sikH PRimE minisTER The Shiromani Akali Dal led Punjab into the new century.
In 1901 a California law was adopted prohibiting the marriage of nonwhite people to Anglos. When Sonia Gandhi declined the prime minister post. Manmohan Singh is the first Sikh to hold the office of Indian prime minister. Sikhism’s presence in the United States and Canada began in the late 1800s. Attracted by fertile farmland resembling Punjab. and the United States.” reflecting a basic ignorance of the Sikh faith. England. Sonia Gandhi. won the biggest upset in India’s political history by toppling the BJP. showing just how much had changed in two decades. 134 SIKHISM . Canada. In May 2004 the Congress Party. during government talks in 2008. SIkhISm aS a gLoBaL faITh There was a time when the Sikh story ended at the borders of the Indian subcontinent. Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh meeting the former Russian prime minister. Victor Zubkov. was sworn in as India’s first minority prime minister. Restrictive laws were enacted to keep Punjabis out of the United States. a Sikh. but that time is past. and the state’s economic troubles led to its defeat by the Congress Party in the state assembly elections on February 13. Manmohan Singh. Taking his position as head of government in 2004. Unfortunately such ignorance was repeated a century later. Sikhs founded communities in California’s Central and Imperial valleys. led by Rajiv Gandhi’s wife.lackluster governance. Due to emigration in the last century the panth can now be found in such disparate places as New Zealand. As in Punjab their dedication was rewarded with thriving farms and businesses. Fiji. Such success was met with fear and prejudice by the Americans of the time. One newspaper in the Imperial Valley ran a headline reading “Hindu Invasion. THE fiRsT sikHs in AmERiCA One of the lesser-known stories of Sikh emigration occurred in California. 2002. By 1920 Punjabis owned or leased onethird of all Imperial Valley farmland.
The Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 finally ended the long history of racial prejudice in American immigration law. In 1923 he was stripped of his citizenship. age 5. Sikhs only began arriving in record numbers after Sandeep Singh. As the 20th century progressed Americans became increasingly aware of racial prejudice in their own country and its influence on immigration policy. which has been a tradition since 1987. however. Sikh Tradition and Modern Culture 135 . Bhagat Singh Thind. It was not restored until 1946 under the Filipino and Indian Naturalization Act. a naturalized American citizen who fought for the United States in World War I (1914–1918). Sikhs proudly fought such unjust laws. The parade. challenged the new anti-Asian immigration law all the way to the Supreme Court but lost his case. Sikh immigration was not immediate.In 1917 new federal immigration laws were adopted that actually revoked the citizenship of Indians and other Asians already well established in the United States. of Cherry Hill. New Jersey. runs down Broadway from Times Square to Madison Square Park. watches as a float passes by during the annual Sikh Day Parade in April 2002 in New York.
For example. Sikh Americans mourned for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks. Indeed many gurdwaras are now engaged in educational outreach to their cities and towns.sikhpoint. Sikhnet.com. California. and disbelief.C. THE sikH CoAliTion On January 1. but they also mourned for the crimes done to the Sikh community by their fellow citizens. Sikhs worldwide are at the forefront of technology.com. www. Around the country. in many ways the terrorist attacks on the United States on September 11. On the Internet the browser is able to access that day’s quote and reflect upon it throughout the day. Sikh communities are finding that the young growing up in areas where Sikhism is not the dominant social force find it hard to maintain their 136 SIKHISM . misguided people targeted Sikhs as Arabs.com. the world ushered in the new millennium. Sikh gurdwaras can now be found in places such as Somerville. For many Sikhs. Some Sikhs were even killed. Chicago.Religion and Technology Because of their industrious approach to work. and indeed in many parts of the world. However. Garland. Illinois. marked the true beginning of a new epoch. mAinTAining idEnTiTy While innovations like Sikh Web sites are helpful. fear. Since then thousands of Sikh faithful have moved to the United States. claiming to be motivated by their Islamic faith. especially those outside India. and www. every gurdwara traditionally displays the quote for the day from the Guru Granth. Like their countrymen. The events of that day were to affect the Sikh community deeply. information technology. Texas.sikhchic. usually on a blackboard or display board. and San Diego. the 1984 attack on the Golden Temple. This is especially true with regard to IT. On that day terrorists of Arabic descent attacked New York City and Washington.. D. It was not long. Today groups like the Sikh Coalition are working to safeguard civil rights and to educate the general public about the Sikh faith. Massachusetts. 2001. however. The first reaction of the communities was a mixture of shock. until the panth mobilized to defend the rights not just of Sikhs but all minorities. 2000. the Internet provides a focus for daily worship and reflection through three major Sikh Web sites: www.
Yet throughout its history the faith has managed to survive and even flourish. To a world often consumed by materialism and selfishness Sikhism offers the path of heightened awareness of other people. and service provide a hopeful vision for the world of the present and the future. enterprising Sikhs who explore together their own roles in the West. The community is now reaching out to these people. and stress on community win its members both respect and success. In the Punjab economic depression and. the natural rhythms of nature. Indeed the Sikh ideals of unity. and service. but the ideals of Sikhism still guide the communities. equality. In the United States there is a significant annual festival—the Festival of Sikh Films in the Western World—that brings together young. In the United Kingdom. There are so called White Sikhs. Sikh Tradition and Modern Culture 137 . equality. but Sikhism has yet to break out of its historical and cultural constraints and become the world religion that many feel it has the potential to become. and Sikhs are looking more to the profound spiritual truths and less to the cultural accretions that have marked Sikhism as essentially an ethnic religion rather than a universal one. sadly. for example. Sikhism’s strong work ethic. the success of a Sikh cricketer on the England team helped many young Sikhs feel a sense of pride in their tradition. honesty. To a world dominated by violence Sikhism teaches peace. corruption at the government level has led to the breakdown of many Sikh families and the rise of drug addiction and alcoholism—both strictly forbidden by Sikh teachings. Sikhism developed in a sea of tumult. value system. and the past. Young men in particular often cut off their long hair and no longer wear the turban because they wish to assimilate. However events such as the mistakes made after 9/11 and the rise of a stronger awareness of and pride in Sikh culture often change these attitudes. converts who follow a specific guru. A HoPEful vision Being a Sikh in the contemporary world is not easy. helping them to recover their sense of pride. And to a world fractured by human division of all kinds Sikhism stresses common humanity.sense of identity.
holy Places The main site for Sikh pilgrimage is the city of Amritsar with the Golden Temple. Internet Sacred Text Archive. festivals There are four main festivals in the Sikh faith: Divali. URL: http://www.htm.org/resources/ statistics/tradition. founders The first guru of the Sikh faith was Guru Nanak. which celebrates the release of the sixth guru from prison (October/ November). holy Symbol In the center is two-edged sword. Available online.pluralism. the majority of whom live in India. Available online. Many people refer to the Guru Granth Sahib for inspiration and it is read from start to finish at Sikh festivals.php#Sikhism. 2008.sacred-texts. Accessed December 15. URL: http://www. which is used to prepare food during services. Population of Sikhs in U. . Pakistan. and it is seen by many Sikhs as the living guru. In many gurdwara and homes a copy of the Guru Granth Sahib is kept in a room of its own. Sikh Ceremonies. Gurpurbs are festivals that celebrate the gurus. Hola Mohalla is the spring festival of colors and sportsmanship (March). Shri Guru Granth Sahib. There are large Sikh populations in the United States. 2001. and Malaysia. Ludhiana: Lahore Book Shop. Parasaraprasna: The Baisakhi of Guru Gobind Singh. East Africa. and Gurdial Singh Man. Great Britain. Kapur Singh. On the outside are two swords that are said to represent the defense of justice and truth. He was followed in turn by another nine gurus. 1999. which was built by the successor to the fourth guru. holy Writings The main text is called the Guru Granth Sahib. for children (mid-August). Amritsar: Guru Nanak Dev University.S. Baisakhi. which celebrates the New Year. the festival of lights. and Madanjit Kaur.FACT FILE Worldwide Numbers There are 24 million members of the Sikh faith. and Rakhri. 138 SIKHISM The Pluralism Project at Harvard University. Accessed November 21. 2008. Piara Singha. It also contains some writings from Hindu and Muslim writers. Canada. It contains hymns written by some of the gurus. Around this is a circle symbolizing one God with no beginning or end. bibliography Jogendra Singh.com/ skh/granth/index.
McLeod. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. New York: Columbia University Press. The Sikhs: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices. J. 2006. Brighton: Sussex Acad. Sikh history and philosophy. The Heritage of the Sikhs. Contesting Interpretations of the Sikh Tradition. There is also information on Sikh art. 2nd ed. The Sikhs: History. ———. H.FURTHER READING Cole. 1994. no. Grewal. and architecture. Singh. W. philosophies. 2001. history. Morristown. social and religious movements. Sikh way of life. New Delhi: Rupa & Co. The Great Glory: Sikhism. and Angela Smith. Historical dictionaries of religions. Oxford India paperbacks. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.com A team of Sikh specialists provide information on all aspects of Sikhism.: Silver Burdett Co. The Name of My Beloved: Verses of the Sikh Gurus. 1998.sikhs. 1999. Singh.J. Press. 2006. and Malkiat Singh.com A network for Sikhs of all ages around the world to share their beliefs. The Sikh World. Singh. Wolpert. 6th ed. Its main functions are education and community projects. Delhi: Manohar Publishers. India: Penguin. development. and Piara Singh Sambhi. Sandeep. SIKHISM 139 . literature. Stanley. and ideas. Delhi: Manohar Publishers. Daljeet Singh. 1990. 59. 1989. Goswami.sikhpoint. http://sikhchic. Owen. Patwant. Culture and Thought. WEB SITES Further facts and figures. customs. Exploring Sikhism: Aspects of Sikh Identity. ed. and current status of the religion can be found on the following Web sites: http://www.allaboutsikhs.com A comprehensive Web site on Sikhism. 1985. The Sikhs. thoughts. 2005. customs and rituals. and way of life of Sikhism. New York: Alfred E Knopf. ———. and culture.org A view on the philosophy. and movements. music. ———. Religion and Society. N. http://www. A New History of India. and trans. Md: Scarecrow Press. Textual Sources for the Study of Sikhism. 2003. art. Nikki-Guninder Kaur. W. New York: Oxford University Press.S. Harbans. Lanham. 2000. architecture. http://www.
the first five members of the Khalsa. khanda—The double-edged sword used as a symbol of Sikhism. constituting both religious and legal aspects of the marriage.” The second stage of spiritual ascension as recorded in the Jap. “pure ones.” and it is pronounced before and after any major or minor undertaking. Singh—Literally. and located in Amritsar. Guru Granth—In Sikhism. and historical events. this sweet mixture is placed in the cupped palms of the members of the congregation at the end of the Sikh service. Divali—The Sikh Festival of Lights. Mul Mantra—The short passage that begins the Guru Granth.” The second name given to all Sikh women. Wahe Guru—Literally. Sikhism’s essential creed describing the Oneness of Reality and Its transcendent nature. the fifth guru. the 10th guru. it is called the Golden Temple. an important part of Sikh service. gyan—Literally. sangat—Gathering or congregation. Harimandir is the central shrine of the Sikhs.” The fellowship of Sikhs founded by Gobind Singh. .” The Sikh place of worship. Made of equal amounts of flour. Punjab—The fertile farming region in northwestern India that is home to the Sikhs. “princess. on Baisakhi in 1699. “lionhearted. Verses from the Guru Granth are sung in the appropriate musical measures. Ardas—The prayer that forms the culmination of the Sikh service.” The name given to the five Sikhs who were prepared to give their life for their faith. Harimandir—The House of God. the martyrdom of Sikhs. literally. 140 SIKHISM Kaur—Literally. India. eat together. as well as those of Hindu and Muslim saints.” The Sikh marriage ceremony. Jap—The morning prayer of the Sikhs. “first book”—the first title given to the Guru Granth. Khalsa—Literally. dharam—Moral duty. the “five beloved. sugar. and forms the center of all Sikh ceremony and ritual. langar—The community kitchen. water. a festival that takes place in April and celebrates the founding of the Khalsa. granthis—Readers of the Guru Granth during Sikh worship. sitting in rows on the floor. the sacred text that contains the compositions of the Sikh gurus. first used by Guru Gobind Singh to eliminate the caste distinctions and to instill heroism in his people. panj pyare—Literally.” The expression is equivalent to saying “Amen.” “Cheers.” and “God Bless You. Because its exterior appears to be covered with gold.” The Sikh greeting. said while pressing one’s palms together and gently bowing. and butter. Baisakhi—The Sikh New Year’s Day. gurpurabs—Anniversary celebrations commemorating gurus’ birth dates. anand karaj—Literally. Sat Sri Akal—Literally.GLOSSARY amrita—Nectar of immortality. also known as Adi Granth—literally. often accompanied by such instruments as the harmonium and the tabla (drums). The Jap forms the beginning of the Guru Granth and presents the foundation of Sikh philosophy and doctrine.” “Bon Appetit.” The second name of all Sikh men. regardless of race and caste. “door to enlightenment. built by Arjan. gurdwara—Literally. “Truth is the Timeless One. “Wonderful Guru. “knowledge. karahprasad—The Sikh sacrament. kirtan—The singing of hymns. “blissful occasion. the first stage of spiritual ascension as recorded in the Jap. In Sikh shrines and during Sikh gatherings men and women cook meals and. celebrated in October or November. “five rivers” because of its relationship to the Indus River and its five tributaries.
and the Golden Temple 101–102. 129 Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) 133 Bhatinda Fort 108 bhog ceremony 81–85. 16. 87 anand karag 91. baptism 47. 77. and the Khalsa 17. 85 funeral rituals 96–97 G Gandhi. bhog ceremony 81–85. 34. 73. 118–119 ethics 66–73 F festivals 18. 49. sacred poetry 38 Ardas 53. and anand karag 91. 30–33. Guru 32. 134 courageousness 8–10 cremation 95 D Dalip Singh 124. 28. Baisakhi 110–112. 76. Rakhri 115. the 16. 44. 38. 76 five takhts. 39. 77 Congress Party 133. the 104–108 food. 32. gurpurabs 115–116. marriage 62. 96 Arjan. sangrand 109–110 five Ks. 41. Divali 112–113. masia 109–110. 87 Bhagat Singh Thind 135 Bhai Buddha 43 Bhai Dalla 107 Bhai Gurdas 28. 80. 92 Anandpur 105–107 Angad. mother of 122. and sexual equality 120 America. and the Adi Granth 39– 43. the Dasam Granth 79–80. 85–88. 46–49. death 94–97. Patala 132 Dukhniwaran Sahib 108. 35. 17. 104 Akbar 43 Amar Das. 110. 96 code of behavior 66–73 community (panth) 13. 49. 132 Gandhi. 134–136 amrita (baptism) 47. 34. 39–40 Bhai Kabir 41 Bhai Mani Singh 108 Bhai Vir Singh 124–125. SIKHISM 141 . 97 Bibi Bhani 121–122 C caste system 20–21 celebrations See festivals Ceremonies 51. 38. Hola Mohalla 114. Guru 32. 82–97. Banda Singh 126 Bahadur Garh 108 Bai Vier Singh 122 Baisakhi 110–112 baptism 47. and the Guru Granth 38. 82. the realm of 71 E elements of Sikhism 30–33 engagement 89 equality 13. Sonia 134 Gobind Singh. 34. 85–88 Battle of Gujrat 129 Benati Chaupai 80. Guru 16. death of 44. 97. 68. and Guru Nanak 34. preparing and eating 30–33. 69 dress See clothing Duk Navaran Shab. Sikh community in 132. 27. 49. 90. 31. 109–110 duty. 88–94 child care 77 clothing 10. 18. and the Guru Granth 39. and the Ultimate Reality 56 arranged marriages 88 B Bahadur. 12. 20. Rajiv 132–133 Gandhi. langar and 33. Basant 113. the Divine Name 71. Indira 131. 85–88 Anand 80. Hola Mohalla 114. 129 Damdama Sahib 107–108 Dasam Granth 80 Daya Ram 46 death 94–97 Dharam Das 46 dharam khand (realm of duty) 71 Divali 112–113 divine incarnation 56 Divine One 10. 33. 30. 39. the five takhts 105–108. 71. 76 Divine Spark 120 Divine Word 61. Guru 16.INDEX A Adi Granth 39–43 Akal Takht 44.
84. preparing and eating 30–33. attack on 18. 78–79. 126–129 modern culture. 27. origins of the faith 20–35. women and 124–125 M man kita bhau 69–70 Mandukya Upanishad 57–58 Manmohan Singh 134 mantras: Guru Mantra 71. 78. 44. 28. 28. 54–65. Amritsar haumai 66–68 Hindu Bhakti movement 15–16. Sikhism on the 136 Islam and Muslims 22–24. 80 gyan khand (realm of knowledge) 71–72 H Har Krishan. 82. 130– 131. 93 I ideals of Sikhism 13 Ikk (One) 56–57 Ikk oan kar 10. 38 Jindan. 110. 56–58 imagery 61–63 Indian Independence (1947) 130–131 Internet. 88–94 masia 109–110 Mata Gujri 122 Mata Kaur 123 Mata Khivi 121 meals. the realm of 71–72 L Lahore Saba (Council) 129–130 langar (preparing and eating meals) 30–33. 114. 43–44. 136 Islamic Sufism 15–16. 93 Guru Mantra 71.(Gobind Singh. 16–18. 92. 39. 35. wife of 123 Golden Temple. 117 grace. marriage cermonies 91. 39. on love 70. the realm of 72–73 granthis 53. 112. 52. 102 Gujrat. at the Golden Temple 102. composition of 36–43. Guru 34. 93 lifestyle 12 literature. 30. 74. 93. 78. 98–108 Gurmukhi script 40 gurpurabs 115–116 Guru Granth 12. 46–49. Amritsar 41. 19. choosing a name 86. Mul Mantra 54–56. 41 Hinduism and Hindus 22–24. 24–25. 41 J Jaap 79–80. 126–129 khulla 53 kirtan 78. 82 Muslims See Islam and Muslims N nadar 59 nam japna 71 name-giving 85–88 Nanak. 85 Lavan. 77. 88 Har Rai. 112–113 Harimandir See Golden Temple. and the Ultimate Reality 57. 27. Battle of 129 gurdwaras 13. 35. festivals 110–113. the Divine Spark 120. the Divine Name 71. 27. 16. Guru continues) on love 70. 78. and the Guru Granth 36–38. Guru 12–16. 59. 80. Sikh tradition and 126–137 morality 70–71 Mul Mantra 54–56. 49–50. and haumai 66–69. 85 Kirtan Sohila 78. 35. 80 mundavani (the seal) 50. 43–49. 77. 105–107. 142 SIKHISM 57–58. 96 knowledge. 100–104. The 91. 33 Keshgarh Sahib 105–107 Khalsa (Pure Ones) 16. and sexual . Maharani 123–124 joti (light) 120 Joti Saroop 122 K Kabir (1440-1518) 15–16 Karahprasad 81. 131–132. 87 Janamsakhi (birth story) 22. Guru 34 Harbans Singh 51–52 Hargobind. 78. 104. 78–79. 88. 44. 81. 85 military 8–10. 80 marriage 62. 74. Guru 34. 96–97 karam khand (realm of grace) 72–73 Kartarpur 28. 130– 131 Hola Mohalla 114 hospitality 77 hukm (Divine Command) 43. contents of 49–53. 44. 39. 77.
20. and Ultimate Reality 50. 38. and the Guru Granth 39. death of 44.equality 120–121. 40–41. Guru 34. Nanak’s vision 27. 122 politics 126–134 prayers 13. 107. 128 sahaj (tranquility) 19 Sahib Chand 46 Salis Rai Johri 105 sampa 53 sangat (gathering or community) 33. 77 sangrand 109–110 saram khand (realm of art) 72 sat nam (Truth is the Name) 10. 58. 20. 76 U Ultimate Reality 10–11. 77–81. 58. imagery and 61–63. 88–94 women in Sikhism 16. Rahiras 53 Punjab 8. Ardas 53. 57. 130–131. 56. 134–136 V vand chhakna 70 W Wahe Guru 71. 82. Sikhism and 136 Tegh Bahadur. Sultana (Empress) 108 reflecting pools 100–101 reincarnation 24. decline of 128–129 Sri Harmandir Sahib 105 Sri Hazur Sahib 107 Sri hymns 41 sukhasan 53 sundari 124 sunia 68–69 Swayyai 80. 65. 102 sihra bandhi 90 Singh Saba (Council) 129–130 sishyas (disciples) 28 Sikh Empire. 71–73 Nit Nem 78 O oan (existence) 57–58 One Reality See Ultimate Reality origins of Sikhism 12–18. 43. 20–35 P Pakistan 18. within and above all 65. 28. 73. 13. 70. sahaj 19 United States. 58 scriptures See Guru Granth separatist movement 131–133 seva (voluntary manual labor) 30. 17. 57. at baptisms 87. marriage and 62. 39. Maharaja 107. 47. 78. Joti Saroop 122. Ramsar 40. 80–81 Ram Das. 28. 77 Shiromani Akali Dal 133–134 shrines 108. the ‘Oneness’ 48. and the Golden Temple 100. 76. 107. mother of 122 “three delicacies” 50–51 tranquility (sahaj) 19 Treasure of the Divine Name 33 “True living” 12 truth 50–51. 100 T technology. 33. 66. 78–79. 128. 128 Razia. Sikh community in 132. 137 Punjab Accord 132–133 R Rahiras 53. 56. 118–125 work ethic 8. 63. 82 turbans 10. 58. 80 weddings 62. 59 religious life 74–82 rites of passage 82–97 rumala 52 S Saba (Council) 129–130 sabad (word) 61 sach khand (realm of truth) 73 sacred space See gurdwaras Sada Kaur 122–123. Keshgarh Sahib 105–107. 78. 122–123. 129. the path to 71–73. Patna Sahib 105. 77 SIKHISM 143 . 130–131 panj pyare (Five Beloved) 46–47 Patna Sahib 105 philosophy 54–65 physical images 61–63 poems and poetry 36–38. and the Guru Granth 39. Mul Mantra 54–56. the Guru Granth and 49–50. 13. the Lavan 91 Ramsar shrine 40. Guru 34. 87 swords of piri and miri 44 symbol of Sikhism 57. 102 Rana Surat Singh 125 Ranjit Singh.
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